Why is this case so important?

Why is this case so important?

This is a potentially ground-breaking complaint that puts on notice those companies who continue to knowingly profit from modern slavery. The case highlights significant gaps in labour protections within the European Union and the lack of remedies available to affected workers of forced labour. The Netherlands – like other EU countries – has a clear opportunity to highlight and enforce corporate accountability for human rights harms in supply chains and deliver justice, in particular now that EU institutions have agreed in December 2023 on a EU Corporate sustainability due diligence directive (CSDDD) which aims to enhance the protection of the environment and human rights in the EU and globally.

Furthermore a Dutch draft law has been proposed by Dutch parliament members in 2022.  After discussions with companies, social organisations, political parties and other stakeholders, the initiators submitted a Memorandum of Amendment to their Responsible and Sustainable International Business Act in mid-September 2023. The initiators also answered all written questions from colleagues in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

The parties have amended the bill on a number of points: for example, the regulator will take into account sectoral cooperation initiatives and the code of conduct for suppliers has been deleted. Double reporting is prevented and companies that violate the law are now excluded from government support. It is hoped that the draft law will be discussed soon by the new Dutch parliament. Anyway the Netherlands will have to comply in the coming years with the new EU legislation.

It still remains very difficult to hold companies accountable for severe forms of exploitation like forced labour or human trafficking. Severe exploitation of especially migrant workers continues to happen in the Netherlands and Europe. The ships produced with exploitative labour continue to sail our seas.

Will the Case still be investigated?

There is limited chance that the public prosecution will still investigate the case, which we try to enforce with our appeal. According to the Dutch Public Prosecution the complaint filed does not show that the companies profited from the exploitation. Moreover according to the Polish inspection there have been inspections with these companies during the time covered by the complaint (2003-2018), but they found no indications for forced labour or human trafficking. It should be noted though that the Polish labour inspectorate did not identify or refer any case of forced labour or human trafficking over the last five years, whereas there have been many credible reports indicating that forced labour is very much a problem in certain Polish industries. The only way for us to enforce a further investigation, is to show that the prosecutor’s decision was premature and legally flawed. This is the aim of the current complaint procedure. In this procedure, we build on extensive information collected and research done. Also see the documentary Why Slavery.