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Germany

1. Key areas for action [page 13]

In relation to the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles, the following are the primary areas for action: …

  • access to grievance and remedy mechanisms.”

1.1 Basic rules of economic policy

Protection within states’ own territory – challenges within Germany

Measures [page 16]

  • “To supplement the existing structures, the Federal Government has shifted the focal point of its efforts towards the fight against human trafficking for the purpose of exploitative employment. A joint federal level-state level working group is currently developing a strategic approach designed to reinforce prevention, establish advisory structures and improve criminal prosecution and the data situation.”

4.1 Access to justice and the courts for injured parties [page 36-38]

Civil remedies in Germany

“Germany’s judiciary works independently and efficiently. Anyone who considers that his or her rights have been infringed in Germany by the actions of an enterprise can make claims before the civil courts. Anyone, moreover, who considers that his or her rights have been infringed abroad by the actions of a German enterprise, can bring an action in Germany, normally at the court with local jurisdiction for the registered office of the enterprise. Germany’s international civil procedure law also contains additional provisions whereby the German courts may be seized of matters relating to certain offences committed abroad, provided that a sufficient domestic connection can be demonstrated (e.g. specific jurisdiction for tort under section 32 of the German Code of Civil Procedure).

German civil procedure law contains mechanisms that facilitate access to German civil courts. Litigants of limited means, for example, can obtain legal aid. Following a means test and an assessment of the prospects for a successful action, beneficiaries have their court costs and their own lawyer’s fees paid in full or in part, depending on their degree of need. Litigants who are not German nationals can also receive legal aid for German court proceedings. All legal entities based in the European Economic Area – victims’ associations, for example – can also receive legal aid if they fulfil the conditions set out in the German Code of Civil Procedure. The German Code of Civil Procedure also provides for collective remedies in the form of joinder of parties and consolidation of claims.”

Scope for penalising enterprises under the law governing regulatory offences

“Enterprises, moreover, may be held liable under the Regulatory Offences Act for conduct in breach of criminal law on the part of their management, including company-related violations of human rights, for which they may be fined up to €10 million. Higher fines may be imposed if, in addition, the economic benefit derived from the offence is being disgorged.”

Support for remedy mechanisms in third countries

With regard to potential human rights violations within supply chains, great importance attaches to reinforcement of the rule of law and democracy in the relevant third countries, because that will create conditions for the introduction of effective redress mechanisms in those countries.

One contribution to the achievement of this objective is made by the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ), which was established by the Federal Government in 1992. The IRZ is now operating in almost 30 partner countries, providing advice when they reform their legal system and their judiciary. In this context, it also advises partner states seeking to reform their entire system of procedural law, providing advice not only on civil, including commercial, procedural law but also on the law governing criminal procedure, on administrative procedural law, including the creation of an administrative jurisdiction, and on the law relating to the enforcement of judgments. The IRZ also deals at various levels with the question of the best way to structure a system of legal aid so that it will be effective in guaranteeing access to justice. Alternative means of dispute settlement such as arbitration tribunals and mediation also feature in the work of the IRZ.

As its name indicates, the IRZ not only provides advice on procedural law but also provides consultancy in the various areas of substantive law, advising on matters of civil and commercial law such as civil codes, intellectual property rights and insolvency provisions as well as on matters of criminal law and more besides.

This consultancy is accompanied by numerous in-service training courses for those who apply the law, designed to help ensure that the reformed legislation is actually implemented in everyday practice too. The purpose of this training is to make court judgments more transparent through trackability of judicial activity and through statements of reasons, measures designed to contribute in the long run to greater legal certainty and to more reliability and predictability and hence to greater public confidence in the judiciary.”

Measures

  • “Those who are affected by human rights violations cannot use the existing remedy mechanisms unless they are sufficiently well informed about them. To this end, the Federal Government will produce a multilingual information brochure on access to justice and the courts for injured parties, which gives potentially affected persons an easy-to-follow summary of the remedies available to them under German civil procedural law.
  • The Federal Government is currently preparing the introduction of compensation for surviving dependants, as envisaged in the coalition agreement. In the event of a close relative being killed, the new provision would enable the surviving dependants to make a pecuniary claim against the party responsible for the fatality as a token of reparation for the survivors’ grief and as a gesture of sympathy, respect, and solidarity.
  • The existing rules for the imposition of sanctions on enterprises for conduct in breach of criminal law will be expanded, as envisaged in the coalition agreement. Specific and coherent sanctioning principles will be created for corporate fines.
  • The IRZ Foundation established by the Federal Government will include in its consultancy programmes advice for partner states on the areas of procedural and substantive law with a significant bearing on business and human rights, focusing on the need to ensure access to justice. At the Fifth International Conference of the Parliamentary Committees on Legal Affairs of IRZ partner states, held in October 2016, issues of CSR and anti-corruption efforts were among the subjects discussed under the Conference theme of “Politics, business and human rights”.”
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