(18f) International mining company versus local villagers

A copper mine in Zambia, Africa. Villagers want to have a court ruling against the operator they accuse of polluting drinking water. The company, although its headquarters are in London, wants the hearing in Zambia but lawyers defending the villagers prefer the hearing takes place in London. The villagers' lawyers won as a judge agreed the hearing should be held in London.

A multinational, taking the minerals from one country while having its headquarters in another far-away country.
Indeed, unfortunately but the likelihood that judges in Africa would judge in favour of the mining companies is significant while it is less likely the villagers can win the case, certainly when multinationals can use huge resources to pay excellent lawyers against poor villagers who can hardly pay any lawyer although now they are represented by a London-based law firm. And we should admit there will be cases when local people win from multinationals.

But, as the judge also acknowledge, now the ruling can be considered as a criticism of Zambia's legal system and as a colonial patronising superiority. Still, it suggests something is wrong when villagers prefer to have the court ruling in a foreign country they don't know, indicating they distrust their own country sufficiently to think it may not favour them. In addition, as the mining company's headquarters are located in London, it can also be explained that it is normal that the court hearing is in London although the pollution happened in Zambia. Nevertheless, there may still be a danger that the court rules in favour of the company as that is in favour of a British company while defending African villagers may harm the multinational although the jurisdiction in the West becomes more and more independent and focused on obeying the law.

It is a fact from the information we get via newspapers that in many African but also other developing countries the jurisdiction is too weak or corruption (within the justice and /or political system) too great to have a correct ruling against multinationals. Only when African leaders acknowledge this can they improve the legal system by asking help from more developed countries. However, also a good democratic system helps to improve the legal system because, when during elections politicians can loose power if they allow a corrupt system, they will strengthen democracy so people will vote for them (unless the voters are corrupt and want the corrupt system to continue until it destroys them). Still, whatever the judgement in this case, whether in favour or against the villagers, the UK may be accused by one or the other party of being biased and of either wanting to harm the Zambian economy or support its own multinational.

Therefore, I think countries or ordinary people should receive help if needed (for instance when a multinational is involved, or during conflicts between two countries or when people want to appeal against a local ruling), not from another country (unless all parties agree that a particular country can judge in their conflict) as this can damage relations but from local organisations such as in Zambia's case the African Union or from worldwide organisation such as the UN (United Nations) or IMF (International Monetary Fund). Then a number of judges from different backgrounds, be it different African countries or other world regions, can judge. In case of a ruling by real world organisations such as an international court, I think three senior judges should judge who are from the three ethnic groups (white, black and oriental). These senior judges can be helped by junior judges of different ethnic backgrounds so a larger group of an uneven number of people will decide; this allows that the junior judges can learn while there is always a majority. Then it is less likely any party involved can claim the judges are biased. And certainly when the court rulings are public, there is also control from organisations and the media so it is even less likely a ruling may be considered unfair. Still, the junior judges should only be allowed for a number of years in an international organisation so there is a turnover while it prevents corruption. As a consequence, lawyers gain practical knowledge they can later use in their own country or in other organisations. Maybe senior judges may remain until a certain age as in general they are appointed at an older age.

No individual or small group of leading countries

Similarly, the current world leader, i.e. the USA shouldn't try to impose its rules on other countries. Indeed, in many ways the USA are superior to other countries where human rights are much more abused. Still, not all is well in the USA or fewer countries would be angry and hope for the destruction of the USA while also internally many Americans distrust their own government. For instance, often the USA are opposed to policies in Latin-American countries, accusing the leaders of being communists when the rulers want to advance their own people (e.g. Cuba and Venezuela) while often dictators are supported and considered good for the American interests even when so-called left-wing people are imprisoned and even killed (e.g. Chile). As a consequence of these policies, often the USA impose restrictions on those countries when left-wing politicians rule in the hope their policies will fail so neoliberals can regain power with good economic links with the USA. As a result, often those so-called left-wing politicians are forced to side with Russia for their economical survival and thus the distrust by the USA towards those politicians increases Russia's position on the world stage while even Russia behaves as it does partly because it feels ignored, even when it is the biggest country on this planet. Unfortunately, often these left-wing leaders try to stay in power for too long so the people grow tired of them, resulting in the return of right-wingers. But who are left-wing people? Difficult to answer as even US President Obama is called a left-winger by a certain section of the American society while many others will not agree.

Therefore, all countries in this world should be much more involved and taken serious in decisions that concerns the world economy or conflicts via international organisations (such as the UN) or local organisations (such as groups of American, African, European or Asian countries) so they feel respected and distrust between countries will gradually decrease. This includes the end of the veto right for some countries in the UN and other organisations although I acknowledge that major countries may continue to have a permanent seat and thus more influence.

That doesn't mean the USA (or other countries) can't act on their own when they consider this is necessary although diplomacy is preferable. For instance, after the 9/11 attacks it was normal the USA would go after the attackers, with or without the approval of the Afghan government as the Taliban who were in government refused to arrest and extradite Osama bin Laden but also with or without the approval of the international community if the UN may have decide not to undertake actions to capture the murderers - but many countries understood the murderers needed to be punished and therefore even joined the Afghan invasion to remove the Taliban and fight al-Qaida and its leaders. More difficult is the second Iraqi war. But if the USA think they are right for the removal of a murderous dictator, then they should not fear being prosecuted by an international community as long as they prevent to commit war crimes although during wars innocent people die. Whenever necessary, the ICC (International Criminal Court) should be able to judge even the actions of Americans and Russians and not only people from poor countries. Another example, during WWII many Germans died in order to destroy a much worse evil, i.e. Hitler and its forces. Similar when the USA used nuclear weapons against Japan to avoid even more deaths on their own side while the Japanese still hope America apologies for this. However, if the Japanese were so innocent, they could have agreed to stop the war after the surrender of Germany and before the two bombs were dropped while Japan could also have apologised for their committed atrocities so decades later surrounding countries would not continue to be angry for Japan's refusal to apologise. But, should one country take such a decision to use nuclear weapons if needed to stop a war? I think not. I think it should be the international community as they can exclude countries that commit war crimes from international organisations so they have no vote or even knowledge of future actions against their country and people. Of course, better still is a world where nuclear weapons are no longer present but as long as some countries continue having these weapons, other countries also need those weapons in order to stop being overruled by the aggressor. Still, should these weapons be with countries or better under the control of an international organisation?

In conclusion, probably first local courts (i.e. within the country) should judge and if people or companies don't like their judgements they should be able to go further. Still, one country should not judge others as this can cause tensions between countries and with companies. Instead, international organisations, either local ones or a worldwide organisation such as the UN should be involved.


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