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Trafficking in Human Beings: How Companies Can Make a Difference

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Identifying and prosecuting Trafficking in Human Beings (hereinafter, THB) is often very difficult because of the fear of the victims to testify in a criminal proceeding. Therefore, it is fundamental that there is cooperation among states, at all levels and with a holistic plan of action. However, we usually forget the major role that legal persons can play in combating THB, despite studies showing the importance of companies in this globalized crime. According to a report prepared by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability at Hult International Business School and the Ethical Trading Initiative, 77 per cent of companies think that there is a credible reason to believe that modern slavery occurs in their supply chains[1]. We cannot demonstrate the real data of the use of corporations to commit THB but it is clear that THB, by its very nature, it is often committed within company’s activities and there are companies that are most at risk, such as industries involving agriculture, migrant workers or seasonal product cycles. Therefore, trafficking is a liability for all companies and that liability could be in many countries not only moral, but also civil, administrative or even criminal. For this reason, companies should be aware of the responsibility that they have in the fight against THB and the serious consequences for them if their employers or their managers are involved in this type of crime. Apart from punishment, they would suffer a huge non-material damage as a result of the process.

BACKGROUNDS OF THE COMPANIES´ CRIMINAL LIABILITY

Pope Innocent IV established the Societas delinquere non-potest principle in order to prevent the papal excommunication of civil or business corporations, cities and legal entities for offences committed by one of its members[2]. The principle was later consecrated in most of European systems of criminal laws.  The notion of guilt has been considered as a concept of personal nature and therefore a company could not be criminal responsible for a crime until the 19 century, when the corporate criminal liability was set in the Common Law. The Netherlands became the first Civil Law country to introduce it into its criminal system in 1950, and nowadays most European countries have accepted that possibility. There exists a worldwide trend to corporate criminal liability[3].

We must take into account that we live in a globalized world, where corporations operate worldwide, which directly implies a high risk of being involved in cases of modern slavery or THB.

LEGAL INSTRUMENTS ESTABLISHING CORPORATE LIABILITY IN RELATION TO THB                                            

There has traditionally been some reluctance to attribute to companies liability for crimes committed by their managers or even by their employers. However, corporate liability has been considered a fundamental instrument against organized crime as established in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Article 10 obliges each State Party to adopt and establish the liability of legal persons for participation in serious crimes involving an organized criminal group, including THB. The liability of legal persons may be criminal, civil or administrative; the main point is that it must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

In the same vein, both the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human beings of 16.5.2005[4] and the Directive 2011/36 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings require Member States to establish corporate liability. Specifically, according to articles 5 and 6 of the aforesaid Directive, all Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that legal persons can be held liable for THB committed for their benefit by any person, who has a leading position within the legal persons based on a power of representation of this legal person, an authority to take decisions on behalf of the legal person or an authority to exercise control within the legal person. Those measures shall ensure effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions, with criminal or non-criminal fines and penalties. Furthermore, it must be ensured that companies can be held liable for a lack of supervision or control, and what constitutes in my opinion the fundamental issue in order to use companies as mechanisms for fighting THB.

With regard to domestic legislations, I would like to make a brief reference to the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015 and the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010. Both instruments impose obligations on large corporations in order to avoid THB in their supply chains, what constitutes major progress with regard to the fight against THB for labour purposes. Therefore, it would be desirable, in my view, to expand that type of regulations to other countries.

According to Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 all companies with an annual turnover that exceeds £36m shall be required to make available a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year. That annual statement must address a full of organisational details such as the organisation structure,  training about slavery, its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking, the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of THB and its due diligences processes.

With regard to the California Act, it requires retailers and manufacturers doing business in California (that have over $100 million in global revenue) to prominently disclose, on company websites, the extent to which, if any, the company engages in specific activities to detect and prevent forced labour and human trafficking in their supply chains—verification, auditing, certification, internal accountability, and training. Thus, companies should implement due diligence programs with effective internal controls, with identification of areas at risks and with implementation of specific policies in order to address those risks[5]. Otherwise, they can be in many states criminal responsible for modern slavery or human trafficking and we can imagine the devastating effect that it could bring to them.

Despite those regulations, THB cases against corporations remain too low.  It is a relatively recent issue, with several obstacles such as the extraterritorial application of corporate criminal liability, evidentiary issues and the problems derived from subcontracting with complex corporate structures[6].

MAIN COMPANIES AT RISK

As already mentioned, human trafficking is considered a form of transnational organized crime, which includes displacement of people from their own countries or regions. THB crimes are often committed in more than one country by organized criminal groups[7]. However, smuggling of and trafficking in should be differentiated. According to professor Anis Bajrektarevic there are four differentiating elements: (i) an exploitation and usage of the trafficked person over a long period of time; (ii) inter-dependency that forms a strong (brothers-in-arms like) linkage, between trafficked victim and organized crime groupings; (iii) eligibility for further networking (recruitment for criminal purpose); (iv) very often trafficking itself is not a voluntary movement, but in the case of smuggled persons it always occurs voluntarily[8].

Therefore, it is usual that companies are used as means for THB, in the process of recruitment, transportation or exploitation.

According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Conventions against Translational Organized Crime Trafficking in persons “shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Therefore, THB offences can be committed by different activities and each of them can involve a particular kind of company. For instance, while recruitment is usually committed on the Internet through false jobs postings, receipt of persons can be performed in hotels. Therefore, I am going to analyse which companies are most at risk stemming of the UN definition and differentiating between the various stages of the THB.

First stage: Recruitment              

The initial stage of the THB process consists of the recruitment. It can be done by several means, and it depends on the purpose of the offence. However, there are usual forms of recruitment, both on THB for labour exploitation and in sexual exploitation.

Social networks play a fundamental role in the recruitment phase and for that reason it is extremely important to implement in those companies effective THB detections systems. It appears that 89% of 12-17 year-old love to chat on the Internet: clase-mates, chat rooms or webnets. These are prefect points for traffickers, who use false identities to lure potential victims to a meeting[9].

With regard also to the Internet, it is common to make use of false jobs advertisements placed on it. It seems to be difficult to detect that type of simulated jobs, but it is also possible to implement different channels for identifying presumed traffickers. The false contracts, and the patterns are always similar. The companies that operate on the Internet should be on the lookout for signs of THB.

Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that the identification on the Internet is very difficult. The anonymity and mass audience of online services increases both the discretion and profitability of the services but complicates the fight against the recruitment. For that reason, in my opinion the companies that operate on the Internet should increase the delivery of information to users in relation to the THB. Companies should expose the risk of being victim of THB and they should explain the traditional methods used by traffickers. Furthermore, companies should also provide users with direct contacts of the company specialized in the fight against THB, representing intermediaries between users and police authorities.

Finally, private employment agencies, as labour recruiters, have an important role in this first stage of THB. Therefore, the issue of labour recruitment and the responsibilities of governments and employers to protect workers from exploitation were at the centre of the 103 debate of the International Labour Conference, which led to the adoption of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, and the Forced Labour Recommendation 2013 (No.203). As specific provision, it is recommended the promotion of coordinated efforts by relevant government agencies, including efforts to regulate, license and monitor labour recruiters and employment agencies and eliminate the charging of recruitment fees to workers to prevent debt bondage and other forms of economic coercion[10].

In the same row, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) call on governments, social partners, businesses, other international agencies, and all concerned stakeholders, to strengthen their efforts to address abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices in statement rendered in June of 2015 in which series of actions were requested:

1.Adopt and strengthen, criminal laws and other regulatory measures, to address the entire spectrum of fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices that may lead to trafficking in persons;
2.Raise awareness amongst recruiters, private employment agencies and employers in the private and public sectors on due diligence and best practices on how to eliminate abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices;
3.Enable cooperation among relevant government agencies, workers’ organisations, employers’ organisations and represent- actives of private employment agencies; promote strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors, and facilitate exchange of good practices within common migration routes;
4.Create complaint mechanisms and ensure that migrant workers who have experienced abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices or subsequent exploitation, gain access to justice and effective remedies, such as compensation;
5.Ensure the Right to Freedom of Association, maximise collective bargaining coverage and support trade unions in their efforts to organize workers, including migrant workers, to better protect them from exploitation during or resulting from the recruitment process.
6.Foster the transparent and participatory negotiation, conclusion and effective implementation of bilateral and regional agreements, rooted in international standards, as well as other specific mechanisms to ensure improved international coordination and cooperation and to close regulatory and enforcement gaps across common labour migration routes.
7.Ensure that national mechanisms to regulate the recruitment of migrant workers are integrated into labour migration policies and relevant bilateral and regional agreements, to ensure coherence between national laws and policies governing labour recruitment and the broader policies relating to employment, skills, and education.
8.Promote the ratification of relevant UN and ILO Conventions, in particular the recently adopted Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930; the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; the Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No 181); the Migration for Employment Convention, 1949 (No 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No 143) to ensure proper recognition and regulation of labour recruiters and employment agencies

Second Stage: Transition             

According to the UN Protocol, it must be punished not only the recruitment, but also the transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons. One of the main characteristics of THB, and which distinguishes it from another forms of exploitation, is the transition stage. Victims are transported to the place of exploitation, either within the country or outside the country of origin of the victim, but in every case, apart from their families and friends, what makes them more vulnerable. Modern slavery requires that people are moved from one place to another and for that reason. It is important to adopt measures to prevent THB in all kind of transport firms, hotels and hosting’s companies.

Victims can be transported by land, sea and air. All shipping companies should be aware of the fights against THB. They can be responsible for human trafficking if they do not adopt any measure to avoid that the traffickers use their services to commit their criminal activities. Consequently, companies that depend on transport as part of their values chains, or that are supplying transportation services, must face the risk of being complicit in modern slavery[11]. For instance, there have been several scandals of smuggling and THB using trucks among the world[12], with fatal endings in some cases. To deal with such situations, it was created the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) with the mission to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and bus industries to combat human trafficking[13]. Its main goals are to saturate trucking and related industries with TAT materials, partner with law enforcement and government agencies to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking and marshal the resources of their partners to combat THB. Similarly, the International Transport Worker’s Federation is trying to make  people aware of the risk of low cost-holidays. Exploitation often happens at tourist destinations, hotels are anonymous and publicly accessible, making them likely venues for prostitution and crime. And even more anonymous would be new companies, which operate on online leasings or rentings short-term lodging such as apartments or homestays. However, tourism and hospitality stakeholders are often unaware of signs, contributing unknowingly to sex trafficking and the transportation of human beings[14], despite being likely to intervene not only in the second stage but also in the third phase of THB.

Third stage: Exploitation             

Exploitation could be for several purposes but it shall include, according to the Palermo Protocol, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

This phase is what justifies the existence of THB and where the companies have more risk to be responsible for the crime. In contrast with the previous stages, where it is complicated to attribute criminal responsibility to the companies, at this stage, companies should have strong mechanisms of THB detection and specially, those companies that are most at risk.

According to a study elaborated by NGO Verité in 2016, eleven sectors were found to be the most likely to have a risk of human trafficking globally[15]: agriculture, construction, electronics, fishing and aquaculture, forestry, healthcare, hospitality, housekeeping/facilities operation, mining and basic metal production and textile and apparel manufacturing. But there are also additional risk factors. Particular products, such as those that have seasonal cycles, certain business processes, for instance in long and complex supply chains, the use of certain vulnerable groups, such as women and children, and other operations in countries deemed as high risk. The study is mainly focused on the companies’ role attending to their supply chains. In the context of the sexual exploitation, we cannot forget the situation of bars, clubs, escort agencies and brothels, due to the fact that they constitute an important focal point for human trafficking. It is clear that in many occasions the owner of that kind of business would be  responsible for trafficking. But in many other cases, it would be difficult to make them responsible for the scenario of a THB victim working in their establishments, especially when they are big commercial premises. And for that reason, it is fundamental to have the possibility to attribute to that business any kind of liability, whether civil, administrative or criminal. Nonetheless, the seriousness of the offence and the high risk of having workers which are victims of THB in such kind of an industry justifies, in my opinion, the attribution of criminal responsibility to that business or even to the owners, in cases of absolute lack of control.

CONCLUSIONS

Trafficking in human beings is a global problem and one of the world’s most abhorrent crimes. It must be fought by land, sea and air, and with use of all the instruments of the rule of law. The fight against this crime must involve several actors with a multifaceted response. Otherwise, we will not be able to eradicate this shameful crime.

It is crucial that small, medium and large companies are involved in the fights against human trafficking. The aim of the traffickers consists in earning money and to that end they often need corporations. Therefore, if we achieve the goal of preventing the utilization of companies to commit THB, we would be able to put traffickers in a difficult situation. Corporations are a fundamental element in the fight of all globalized crimes. We should  emphasize that companies can and should play a vital role in preventing human trafficking.

At this point, there are already many companies that they are aware of the risks of being involved in a case of THB and take their responsibility for it. There are major initiatives in this area. For instance the aforementioned Truckers Against Human Trafficking or the European Alliance Bankers against Trafficking in Human Beings, which created a practical toolkit with “red-flag indicators”[16].

With the globalization of business, international compliance is a necessity. The global nature of companies with subsidiaries, affiliates, and vendors all over the world provide great opportunities but also great risks of being liable for the actions of  their staff[17]. However, there are many companies that are not conscious of the risks that they take if they do not implement effective measures against THB.

There is currently a worldwide trend to corporate criminal liability and it is only a matter of time we start prosecuting companies which are responsible for human trafficking. Judicial authorities, policy makers, press and civilian play an important role related to corporate liability. We should promote the awareness of companies of the necessity of the implementation of due diligence programs with effective internal controls, with identification of areas at risks and with implementation of specific policies in order to address those risks, and to avoid labour exploitation .

It is responsibility of all of us to combat THB with involvement of all the possible actors.

An early version of this text has been presented at the OSCE Conference (18 Alliance against Trafficking in Persons, Vienna 2018)

[1] LAKE Quintin, MACALISTER Jamie, BERMAN Cindy, GITSHAM Matthew, PAGE Nadine, “Corporate Leadership on Modern Slavery”, Hult research in partnership with the ethical trading initiative, November 2016, p.9.

[2] BRODOWSKI Dominik, DE LOS MONTEROS DE LA PARRA Manuel Espinoza, TIEDEMANN Klaus, “ Regulating Corporate Criminal Liability: An Introduction”, Springer International Publishing Switzerland, 2014, p.1.

[3] OECD, “ Liability of legal Persons for Corruption in Eastern Europe and Central Asia”, 2015,p.9

[4] Article 20 of the Council of European Convention on Action againts Traffiking in Human beinfs, Warsaw,16.5.2005.

[5] D. Sherman Jeffrey, COMM B, BRAITHWAITE Colin, “Risk assesment tools for effective internal controls”, First reference, September 2008,p.2

[6] RODRIGUEZ LOPEZ Silvia, “ Criminal liability of Legal Persons for Human TRaffiking Offences in International and European Law”, Journal of Traffikcing and Human Exploitation, Paris Legal Publishers, 2017, p.105-110

[7] A.FORSTER Bruce, “ Human Trafficking:A Transnational Organized Crime Activity”, American International Journal of Contemporary Research, Vol.3 No.1,January 2013, p.1

[8] BAJREKTAREVIC Anis, “The Palermo Convention, Ten Years After – toward the Universal Criminal Justice, GHIR (Geopolitics, History, International Relations) Addleton Academic Publishers NY, Volume 3(1) 2011, p.44

[9]  SKIOTOU Athanassia P., “Trafficking in human beings:Internet recruitment”, Council of Europe, 2007, p.27

[10] ANDREES Beate, NASRI Alix, SWINIARSKI Peter,”Regulating labour recruitment to prevent human traffiking and to foster fair migration, models challengues and opportunities”, International Labour Organization 2015, p.3.

[11] TRIER HANSES Thomas, “ Transport-The risk of complicity in modern slavery”,Sirius Publications, 2016, p.2.

[12] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34073534.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40696306.

[13] http://truckersagainsttrafficking.org/.

[14] Carolin L, Lindsay A, Victor W (2015) Sex Trafficking in the Tourism Industry. J Tourism Hospit 4:166. doi:10.4172/2167-0269.1000166.

[15] DERPARMENT OF STATE, “ Trafficking in persons report 2015”, United States of America,  p.23.

[16] https://uk.reuters.com/article/banks-trafficking/bank-staff-will-red-flag-trafficking-suspects-with-powerful-new-tool-idUKL8N1HW3J4

[17] T. BIEGELMAN Marin, R.BIEGELMAN Daniel, “ Foreign corrupt practices act compliance guidebook: protection your organization from bribery and corruption”, Wiley Corporate F&A,2010,p.g31.

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International Law

The rise & rise of populist demagogues in democratic nations

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The term dictators & demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts but there’s a difference, the former rules over a totalitarian state where government is able to exercise a complete influence over every aspect of citizen’s life whereas the latter is a “wannabe dictator” but due to the system of checks & balance in place they’re are not fully capable to create police states.

In 21st century these flamboyant  demagogues  have adjusted their personality & politics in such a way  that they successfully hide their intent & action in the shadows of democratic system so unlike Hitler’s Fascist regime or North Korea’s Communist dictatorship, it’s difficult to held them accountable because they’ll try to justify their hasty & unreasonable decision  in the name of Constitution & larger public good.

There are some common qualities shared by populist demagogues in  democratic countries that need to be checked in all seasons to protect the country & its people from potential benevolent dictators.

1.Compromised Constitutional Bodies

The rabble-rousers of the modern era have smartly learnt from their predecessors that to stay in power for eternity, it’s important to curb & limit the functions of Independent Institutions like Courts, Central Bank, Auditory Bodies, Investigation Agencies etc. For instance the President of Turkey Recep Erdogan has almost destroyed judicial independence in the country & with the recent news about the call of his political ally to shut down Turkey’s Constitutional Courts is not just alarming but also a cause of concern in a country where a record number of journalists are serving jail sentences under false charges & this decision if taken will not just compromise the press freedom which is already at its nadir in Turkey but it’ll also weaken the capacity of judicial system to guarantee the protection of people’s rights.

2.Unnecessary Focus on the revival of Glorious Past

Demagogues keep reminding us about the ancient prosperity & always pushing the narrative to portray their   country as the leading force , it can be done via 2 ways, either promote the soft power like culture, tradition, civilization & spirituality or use even nasty tricks to pull out the blinded nationalism that includes portraying one’s country as the leading colonizer, telling people about invaders & portray them as protector of native civilization or use race theory to create a class divide in society like Hitler did by invoking the Aryan identity that made some people into believing that they are superior to others.

By inciting this false hope of regaining the past glory & branding slogans like “Make America Great Again”, “For us, Hungary First”, “Abki bar, Modi Sarkar” they deceit & manipulate people into voting for their parties without doing any substantive work on the ground.

3.No respect for Dissent & Human Rights

Dissent or criticism of the leader & its establishment is part of a healthy Democratic society where people are fundamentally free to express their views regarding the government’s policies. While delivering a lecture on the topic,” The Hues That Make India: From Plurality to Pluralism,” the Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud noted that ” Descent is the safety valve of a democracy”  but sadly the Modern day Niro of India who ironically belongs to the same State where this lecture was being delivered has left no stone unturned to deliberately cut this valve into pieces.

Critics & Human Rights Activists are put behind bars for raising their voice against the atrocities & crime inflicted on tribals, minorities & other vulnerable sections of society. They are mercilessly beaten, tortured, thrashed & maimed in solitary confinements making no exceptions for maintaining basic human decency that is expected from the “World’s Largest Democracy”.

4. Polarisation for winning elections

The gruesome killing of George Floyd by White male police officer sparked a global outrage & protests against the racial inequality & hate crime that is at its highest level in more than a decade. People demanded accountability & change to stop the Institutionalised & Systemic racism against the people of color in the United States. Ex-president Trump instead of calling out & condemning white supremism  (terrorism) has defended & even embraced this far right radical ideology of hate.

As per the report by V-Dem, there’s an upsurge in political polarisation in India since 2014 when BJP seize the power at Centre & this is evident by frequent incidents of mob-lynching, riots & attacks on minorities especially muslims & Dalits in India. This report further states that Freedom of Religion has seen a considerable decline under the current regime. The reason behind these precipitous decline is the rise of Hindutva Politics which was long gone, forgotten & buried in the coffin but the BJP has called out the jinn of hatred to sway elections after elections at the cost of people who want to live a peaceful life in a non-hostile environment.

5.Violate established rules of Political Conduct

Politics was always a dirty business but populist leaders in most democracies have stooped to a new low & ruined it further. They never shy away from using homophobic & sexiest slurs or passing derogatory remarks against their counterparts in other parties.

Take for instance Brazilian President Bolsonaro, a nutcase who revokes popular prejudices in his ugly campaign rhetoric by passing many offensive & utterly distasteful comments against women, gays, environmentalists & minorities.

The rise of retro-macho politics has left no space for political sobriety & if unchecked, the tumor of hypermasculinity will not be just limited to hate speeches & jibes but translate into formidable action against humanity.

That’s how Romanian dictator Ceaușescu turned his political rhetoric into dystopian reality, under his dictatorship, birth control was banned, abortion was outlawed & fetus was declared the “property of society”, so women were tested for pregnancy & monitored to make sure that they give birth, and punished if they failed.

6. Refusal to accept migrants from Impoverished & war-torn countries

This is the hypocrisy of Western States who for decades have waged war, supported regime change, imposed Economic sanctions & trade barriers, sold weapons to militants in Middle-eastern & African countries finally when refugees & immigrants are arriving at the European borders from these destabilized countries where anarchy has bolstered civil war & complete chaos after covering an extremely dangerous route & taking enormous risks such as relying on people-smugglers or using flimsy boats to cross rough seas, they were detained & locked up under inhumane conditions in shipping containers in Hungary at whims & fancies of  Hungarian government headed by ultra-right wing Viktor Orbán but after the European Union Court ruling last year, Hungary has finally shut-down these illegal migrant transit zones situated on its border with Serbia, at the same time tightening rules which will effectively bar future migration prospects in EU member states.

7. Climate Change Deniers

Climate Change is the biggest threat to human existence in the 21st Century. Earth’s Climate is now changing faster than at any point in modern civilization, primarily as the result of human activities. It needs to be understood that Climate Change is not just a science issue but a policy issue as well. In most of the countries where demagogues are in-charge the policy seems to be more destructive, anti-science & discredit the scientific studies that show that effects of Climate Change are horrific & destructive for the Planet.

The environmental policies of Bolsonaro in Brazil have put the Amazon Rainforest on the verge of extinction. Regarded as the “lungs of the Earth”, the Amazon acts as a giant carbon sink & is also responsible for driving rain patterns across South America & Africa. Leaked documents revealed that Bolsonaro has cynical plans for Amazon Rainforest that includes hydroelectric plants, construction of bridges on Amazon river & a proposed highway through the dense forest to integrate Amazon basin with the rest of the National territory.

Under pressure from the Biden Government, Bolsonaro is now promising to make Brazil Carbon neutral by 2050 but his Environmental minister has asserted that his country is ready to cut 40 percent of deforestation in Amazon Forest only if the International Community will provide $1Billion as assistance. Though It is highly unlikely that the Brazilian government will take any steps against the influential farming lobby that played an important role in the victory of Bolsonaro in 2018 & to whom he has promised to dismantle existing environmental protections to make way for agricultural land expansion and intensified production.

The rise of populist leaders in  democratic countries is not sudden, before seizing power they boastfully promise to set their country free from corruption, crime & socio-economic inequality but after winning election they shift their goal post to achieve sinister objectives. Electoral political system in a democracy needs an urgent overhaul to include an educated perspective rather than simply representing the

will of majority which is no less than tyranny & this could only happen if people(voters) are aware about fascism among themselves & what  does it take for a normal country to become a Nazi State that had turned itself on the path of ravage & destruction. The importance of self realisation & tumultuous past is aptly described in a quote by Ernest Hemingway in his classic book, For whom the Bell tolls “But are there not many fascists in your country?’ There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes“.

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OTT broadcast and its censorship: Whether a violation of freedom of speech and expression

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The whole world, owing to coronavirus pandemic, is enveloped in the darkness. It has wreaked havoc on almost all the aspect of human lives. The educational institutions, theaters and cinemas all have been shuttered. Public gatherings, to maintain the social distancing, have been firmly discouraged. Further, the pandemic has significantly modified the media and entertainment consumption patterns. Social lives ventured into digital environment as a result of people being cramped to their homes. People have switched to several sources of entertainment from the comfort of their own homes and over-the-top (“OTT”) platforms have proven to be a major source of entertainment.

OTT platforms have grown exponentially and taken over the industry. OTT platforms expedites streaming of video content over the web. Several OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney Hotstar, Disney+, Apple TV+, Hulu, etc., have primarily ousted the traditional television service. The notification issued by the Central Government of India aimed at getting online media platforms and content on OTT platforms within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been making the rounds in recent times. The cabinet Secretariat, on November 9, 2020, released a notification amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961. It has incorporated two new entries to the second schedule of the Rules namely Films and Audio-visual programmes provided by online service provider as well as News and Current Affairs. This action is attributed to the fact that there is large amount of an unrestricted content available on the web as well as lack of an adequate regulatory regime in place to protect its users.

Universal self-Regulation code

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had come up with a Universal self-Regulation code (code) to administer the content available on OTT platforms. The code was primarily adopted by the fifteen OTT platforms namely zee 5, Viacom 18, Disney Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, MX Player, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Arre, HoiChoi, Hungama, Shemaroo, Discovery Plus and Flickstree. SonyLIV and Lionsgate too have recently signed the code. It was manifestly stated in the code that The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) is the main governing framework when it comes to online content. The values enshrined in Article 19 of India’s Constitution, namely the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, direct the internet and material on the internet. A policy for the digital content sector has to be drafted in line with Article 19 of the Indian Constitution i.e. the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, and any constraints on the aforesaid right should be fall within the purview of constitutional restrictions set forth in Article 19(2) of the India’s Constitution.

Further, the code had delineated a mechanism pertaining to (i) Age Classification (the code had particularized the certain categories for standardized age classification namely All ages, 7+, 13+, 16+ and 18+) (ii) Appropriate content specification ( a content descriptor appropriate to each piece of content that demonstrates and tells the viewer about the essence of the content while also advising on viewer discretion) and (iii) Access control Tools( to regulate access to content, signatories to the Code may implement technological tools and measures for access control i.e. PIN/Password.) The code had also established the perspicuous grievance redressal and escalation process to lodge complaint regarding non-adherence to specified guidelines. The MIB, however, has repudiated the proposed code since it did not explicitly categorize the prohibited content. Further, there is no independent third-party oversight and a transparent code of ethics. The MIB instructed IAMAI to seek guidance from the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) self-regulatory frameworks.

A public interest litigation was consolidated in October, 2018, before the hon’ble Delhi High court by Justice For Rights Foundation to draught certain guidelines for modulating the content available on OTT platforms. The MIB while filing the counter affidavit stated that digital platforms are not required to procure a license from them to exhibit their content and the same is not controlled by them. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has also mentioned that they do not oversee internet content and there exists no mechanism for monitoring or licensing an agency or establishment that posts content on the internet. Nevertheless, it was claimed that the provisions concerning IT are applicable, and concerned legislative authority having jurisdiction under the aforesaid Act is authorized to take action using the power granted to them under section 69 of the Act which involves directives for interception, surveillance, or data encryption. Further, under Section 67 of the Act there are penalties pertaining to posting or disseminating obscene information in any digital form. Accordingly, the court while dismissing the petition opined that it cannot grant a mandamus for the creation of regulations when the IT Act already contains stringent restrictions and currently the foregoing petition is pending in the hon’ble supreme court.

Positions of the law in regards to film screenings

A film must be certified by the Central Board of Film Certification before it can be displayed or distributed in cinemas or on satellite, and the content is constrained by existing laws. The CBFC was established by the Cinematograph Act of 1952. When it was established, it was designated as the Board of Film Censors. It was amended in 1959 to give it the authority to certify a picture for mass consumption. The Cinematograph Act of 1952, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, and the Cable Television Networks Rules of 1994 are among the laws that govern the industry. However, there is no such particular legislation for regulating material on OTT platforms. The government by virtue of Article 19(2) of Indian constitution can impose restrictions on freedom of speech and expressions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality and so on. Consequently, broadcasted content has often been a restricted matter. In K.A. Abbas v. Union of India and Another[1], the constitutionality of censorship was initially challenged. The hon’ble supreme court has upheld the constitutionality of censorship under Article 19(2) of the India’s constitution and stated that films must be viewed differently from any kind of art and expressions because a motion picture can elicit more intense emotional response than any other product of Art. However, such censorship should not be exercised to imposed an undue restriction on freedom of speech and expression.

The constitutionality of censorship was also disputed in S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram [2]wherein the hon’ble supreme court has held that the board’s criterion for appraising the films must be that of an ordinary man with common sense and wisdom rather than that of a hypersensitive mind. The Moral values ought not to be compromised in the realm of any social change. The concept of “Dharam” should not be disrupted by the immoral norms or standards. However, it does not suggest that censors must embrace a conservative perspective. They should be resilient to social change and go with the topical environment. The film is the most legitimate and significant medium for addressing topics of public concern. The producer has the right to broadcast his own message, which others may or may not concur with. The state, regardless of how hostile to its policies, cannot suppress open debate and expression. The democracy is basically a government by the people based on open debate. The democratic form of administration necessitates citizens’ active and informed engagement in the societal issue.

Furthermore in, Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd. And Anr. V. The Central Board of Certification[3], it was said that we are governed in a democratic manner. We can’t expect everyone’s head and intellect to be the same in a democracy. Freedom to think and act in a different way is at the heart of democracy. The beauty of democracy is the diversity of viewpoints, ideas, and manifestations. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to exhibit themselves in the same way. In the film business, new blood is being infused. This new blood is revved up and eager to get their feet wet in the industry. The film business and the general public have embraced such new blood. Their effort has been recognized and praised by the government. These works are predicated on a certain way of thinking that is unique to them. They have their own opinions and ideas on how the film business should operate, as well as how the medium altogether must be managed. Profanity, obscenity, and depravity do not shock human emotions. Such situations and discussions must be seen in their entirety. The narrative must be perused in its totality and thought upon. It is not appropriate to choose a few phrases, lines, conversations, or situations and venture into the board’s resolution. Certainly, the state, and notably the Central Board of Film Certification, cannot attempt to sculpt and dominate public opinion under the guise of purported public interest or audience preference. That would be terrible, as it would hit at the heart of democracy and civil liberty, which are held in such high regard by everybody. The goals of film certification, consequently, cannot be achieved by disregarding the Constitutionally guaranteed right or by fully undermining and disappointing it. A movie has to be watched on its own and judged accordingly. The plot, subject, background, and location in which it is created, the message it aims to express, and the entertainment, among other things, would all have to be assessed using section 5B’s standards.

Should OTT platforms be governed by a code of self-regulation?

Self-regulation is presently the only option available to such platforms in order to maintain the ability to broadcast material without undue censorship. Because unreasonable restriction would impede the creative flexibility of OTT platforms. It will assist platforms in conducting themselves in an ethical and fair manner while also safeguarding the interests of their users. It would protect content producers’ artistic freedom by promoting creativity and upholding an individual’s right to free speech and expression. The general public desires to view the content in its original and untainted state. They strive to understand artwork in its most primitive sense. The fundamental role of government agency is to maintain the fair field, not to inhibit innovation and ingenuity by placing limitations in a tech industry.

Self-regulators’ competence allows them to adjust their regulations more quickly than government agencies in reaction to technological advancement. More significantly, independent of any technological change, the self-regulator is better equipped to decide when a rule should be modified to improve compliance. Self-regulation has the ability to make compliance more appealing. It develops regulations based on an expert’s level of understanding, customized to the specific sector. These rules are viewed by regulated entities as more “reasonable” from the inception owing to their involvement[4].

Conclusion

The MIB by virtue of the amendment has now can regulate and draught policies regarding digital media and online streaming on OTT platforms. However, such governmental intervention can considerably jeopardize the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. The suppression of freedom of speech and expression is what censorships is all about. The freedom of speech and expression suggests that right to manifest one’s thought via words of mouth, writing, picture and any other means. The freedom of speech is one of the most well-known and fiercely protected civil rights against government encroachment. In modern democratic societies, it is generally considered as an essential notion. Every citizen of a democratic nation has the freedom to express his or her opinions on various issues. Thousands of viewpoints are disseminated around the country via various channels. A film director has the freedom to manifest himself and gives effect to his thoughts, even though others may not concur with him. An exhibition of films as well as documentaries cannot be prohibited for purely speculative reasons since prohibiting motion pictures is tantamount to suppressing the right to freedom of expression and speech. Restrictions upon Individual’s freedom of speech and expression must only be permitted if they are required to avert severe harm from being perpetrated. It is critical to have a healthy and extensive amount of free expression in order to assert a thriving and well- functioning democracy. Democracy, otherwise, is obsolete and akin to a totalitarian dictatorship[5]. It should be up to the public to determine what they want to see and what they don’t want to watch. Thus, the cornerstone to safeguarding artistic freedom is a sustainable self-governance paradigm.


[1] K.A. Abbas v. Union of India and Another (1970) 2 S.C.C. 780

[2] S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989) 2 S.C.C. 574

[3] Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd. And Anr. V. The Central Board of Certification 2016 S.C.C. online Bom 3862: (2016) 4 AIR Bom R 593: AIR 2017 (NOC 62) 29

[4] Id. at 13

[5] Subhradipta Sarkar, RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH IN A CENSORED DEMOCRACY, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER SPORTS

 AND ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 62, 84 ,89 (2009)

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International Law

What Determines Taliban Government’s Legitimacy?

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

With the fall of Kabul, and the evasion of President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban has taken over the reins of Afghanistan. States like Pakistan and China have already expressed their willingness to “work with the Taliban”  thereby legitimizing the Taliban government, whereas India has refused to recognize this “reign of terror”. The jurisprudential question of legitimacy arises here because the transfer of power in Afghanistan was through a coup d’etat which constitutes an extra-constitutional means of formation of government. Governments desire legitimacy because it gives them the right to rule and an acceptance on the international and domestic levels.

The most accepted theory in this regard is Hans Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law. Kelsen, a positivist, claimed that law was contaminated by sociological impurities and morality, and focussed his theory on law alone. He based the legitimacy of the new order of government on its efficacy, and a rule was said to be efficacious when individuals regulated by it “behave, by and large, in conformity” with it. When the new order was efficacious, the coup was said to be successful, and the new government was held to be a legitimate one. Kelsen’s theory was widely accepted to uphold governments after coups such as in The State v. Dosso (Pakistan; 1958), Madzimbamuto v. Lardner-Burke (Southern Rhodesia; 1968), and Uganda v. Commissioner of Prisons (Uganda; 1966), among others. Since Kelsen tries to purify laws from the socio-political aspects, he contends that that it is irrelevant why people comply with the law and it could even be out of pure fear. Thus, a rogue government such as the Taliban which is efficacious as it receives compliance out of coercion and not out of consent, would be a legitimate one from a Kelsenian perspective.

The primary criticism that arises to Kelsen’s separability thesis is that he fails to distinguish between validity of law and its legitimacy. Critics have argued that while validity of law concerns with its authoritativeness, legitimacy depends on the virtue of justness and is contingent upon socio-political and moral factors. The issue lies with attaching legitimacy to the performance of the government. Instead, legitimacy should involve the questions of whether the government has the ability to demand the obligations out of voluntary conviction, provide for public goods such as the rule of law, protection of fundamental rights, etc., and function in a manner such that the society is generally benefitted. A study on legitimacy in seventy-two countries concludes that more the citizens are treated as rightful holders of political power, more legitimacy the government derives. This means that the virtue of legitimacy must flow from the citizens and the society and not from a coercive power that the top-down approach provides.

In the light of this, when the Taliban government is examined, it is realised that with its extremist ideology and terror activities in the past, it can hardly fulfil this criteria.While the ‘good Taliban’ has claimed that it will protect the freedom of press and not discriminate against women while allowing for their participation in the society within framework of Islamic law, these assurances will pacify only those who are unfamiliar with its history. Under the rule of Taliban in the years between 1996 and 2001, human rights were suspended, and political killings, rape, torture, amputation, and public executions were common place. A Taliban 2.0 which has emerged victorious against one of the major superpowers of the world, and has external support is unlikely to reform. Ideologically, they still remain the same movement committed to a puritan interpretation of Islam and this is evidenced by the fact that the barbaric Sharia law is in place once again. These baseless claims should be perceived as a political strategy to appease states into granting them de jure legitimacy because despite the jurisprudence of legitimacy developed, there is nothing in the international law that bars states like China, Russia, Pakistan or others from recognizing the rogue state of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Therefore, the future of the Taliban and Afghanistan rests in the interplay of international actors.

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