Judicial remedies: The issue of jurisdiction
This chapter addresses jurisdictional challenges that third-country victims of human rights abuses committed by EU-based ‘multinational’ companies (MNCs) face in seeking redress in EU Member State courts. In general terms, private international law allocates jurisdiction to courts on the basis of a nexus to the forum state. In the EU, this general rule fi nds an expression in the requirement that the defendant of a civil action must be domiciled in one of the EU Member States. This creates diffi culties in cases of private litigation for human rights abuses committed by MNCs where parts of these companies are domiciled outside the EU. While from an economic point of view, MNCs operate as globally integrated entities, they appear in law as a multitude of separate legal companies with different ‘nationalities’. An important consequence of this legal sequestration is that victims of human rights abuses committed by EU-based MNCs outside the EU face signifi cant obstacles in seeking redress in EU Member State courts, should they fi nd no effective remedy in their home state. On the one hand, while EU Member State courts generally have jurisdiction over (parent) companies domiciled in the EU, it proves diffi cult to establish the liability of these companies in substantive law for human rights abuses committed by their subsidiaries and contractors in third countries. On the other hand, while third-country victims of human rights abuses often encounter diffi culties in obtaining effective redress in their home countries, Member State courts will as a general rule decline jurisdiction in cases directly brought against these foreign subsidiaries and contractors in the EU.