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The company you keep

He never got a clear answer but the encounter was a telling one nevertheless.<

The company, Trafigura finds itself being sued on behalf of more than 7,000 Ivorians who allegedly became sick when a company commissioned by Trafigura, disposed of the waste irresponsibly.

“We take our corporate social responsibility seriously”, protested the Trafigura boss, Eric de Turckheim, who denies the waste was responsible for the sickness. According to Newsnight, as well as tens of thousands of people becoming sick, 16 died.

I hope Mr de Turkheim means what he says. We need companies to take responsibility for the human rights impacts of their actions. It’s often the case that the world’s poorest people find themselves suffering those impacts. Apparently, Trafigura’s turnover of $45 billion is twice the size of the entire Ivory Coast economy.

Shi Tao is a man who knows all about how the actions of a company can have their impact. The Chinese journalist and poet is three years into a ten year sentence for – wait for it – sending an email. No, really. He was arrested after Yahoo! gave his account details to the Chinese authorities.

It’s a shocking story, retold in the New Statesman this week by a man who is to political blogging what Jeremy Paxman is to interviewing, Guido Fawkes. Yahoo! insists it was legally obliged to comply with the demand for information but, whether in the Ivory Coast or China, whether their actions will impact upon one person or tens of thousands, companies should respect human rights wherever they operate.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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