The Ruggie Rules: Applying Human Rights Law to Corporations

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Radu Mares ed., 2012)

Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 1916664

37 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2011 Last revised: 7 Oct 2014

John H. Knox

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Date Written: August 16, 2011

Abstract

This paper examines the application of human rights law to corporations. It focuses on the six-year mandate of John Ruggie as the special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on human rights and corporations, which culminated in June 2011 with the endorsement by the U.N. Human Rights Council of his Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Although the Guiding Principles are not, and do not purport to be, legally binding in themselves, together with Ruggie’s earlier work they shed light on several contested legal issues, including (a) whether human rights law directly applies to corporations; (b) the standard for corporate complicity in state violations of human rights law; and (c) whether states’ duties to protect against corporate misconduct extend extraterritorially. Clarification of these issues may influence whether corporations are subject to legal remedies for violating human rights law, including under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows aliens to seek monetary damages for torts committed in violation of international law. Ruggie’s work has already been cited in ATS litigation.

Keywords: Human Rights Council, John Ruggie, corporations and human rights

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Knox, John H., The Ruggie Rules: Applying Human Rights Law to Corporations (August 16, 2011). The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Radu Mares ed., 2012); Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 1916664. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1916664

John H. Knox (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

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