Corporate Law Practice Human Rights Law Legal Articles Nigerian Law

Corporations and Human Rights Law: An Examination of the Rights of Corporate Bodies and the Enforcement thereof – Abolade Akinkunmi Saheed

Within the past decade and now, human rights law and litigation has substantially evolved. In the past, the general notion was that human rights claims could only be enforced against governments. However, modern jurisprudence and case laws reveal that human rights suits could be instituted and enforced against individuals, as well as corporate organizations. However, as much as it is apparent that individuals have human rights and can enforce them, it still remains unclear whether corporate entities have rights and whether a corporate entity can successfully seek to enforce a human rights claim. Indeed, it is without doubt that a corporation can successfully rely on their right to fair hearing in a trial and some other rights. However, under Nigerian law, it seems obscure as to whether a corporation can enforce their right to life, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom from torture among others. This discourse shall examine the practice of human rights litigation and argue that corporations should be able to enjoy human rights and enforce them against others – be it individuals or governments or other corporate entities – as much as it can be enforced against them. This essay argues that it is unfair that corporations are bound to respect the rights of others, while others are not bound to reciprocate such. This essay shall examine various rights with a view to examining how a corporate entity can benefit from those rights. This essay shall also examine likely objections that could be raised and counter them. While it is conceded that a corporation might not be able to enjoy some categories of rights for practical reasons and even humans do not enjoy all rights, the essay argues that corporate entities should be able to enjoy a lot of rights.

Human Rights Litigation at a Glance
Human rights law, uninvited now seems to intrude into many other areas of law, even areas of law that are unimaginably remote. Many international treaties, including trade agreements, are now geared towards securing compliance with human rights law. Compliance with human rights law is one of the cardinal agendas of international organisations. In fact, concern for human rights protection is one of the major factors that birthed the existence of the United Nations. The judicial organ of the Council of Europe is known as ‘The European Court of Human Rights’ and known for its role for interpreting human rights law. Other 2 regional courts also have the appellation, human rights, attached to their name: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and The African Court of Human Rights. Human rights law now secures a section or chapter in a lot of European, especially British, textbooks on any area of law and many more literatures has been devoted to the subject-matter. In fact, a lot of causes of action can now be substituted with a human rights suit. For instance, a civil suit of assault and battery can be substituted with a human rights claim of right to human dignity as the tort of false imprisonment can be replaced with a claim of right to freedom of movement. So also can the tort of wrongful death be substituted with an enforcement of right to life action.
Under Nigerian law, substituting those civil causes of actions with a human rights claim is not without its benefit. It should be known that human rights proceedings are sui generis and are different from civil suits under Nigerian law. Human rights proceedings are governed by a separate set of rules: The Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules. The advantage that comes with instituting a human rights claim in place of a civil suit is that human rights suits must be speedily dispensed by the court and the case cannot be struck out for want of locus standi as stipulated by the rules. Also, human rights claims cannot be caught up by any statute of limitation.

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