Human rights friendly?

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Not if you’re G4S, the British company, which has been blacklisted by Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. This is the body which has the task of investing the proceeds of the country’s vast oil wealth for the benefit of Norwegian citizens.

The Norwegian Parliament, The Storting, which ultimately oversees the activities of the Sovereign Wealth Fund will not permit investments in companies or projects which fail to comply with the country’s international human rights obligations.

G4S has come under intense scrutiny by the Norwegians due to allegations of human rights abuses by the company in relation to the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf States. The Sovereign Wealth Fund has decided to divest from G4S on the grounds that further involvement with the company may constitute a “risk” to human rights.

Like the UK, Norway is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (as implemented by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998) are only enforceable against the British State or its institutions and organisations that carry out public functions, for example, universities, care homes, colleges, hospitals, housing associations, schools and local authorities.

Norway as a contracting party to the European Convention is in a similar, legal position in the sense that its public bodies or emanations of the State (a category which clearly the Fund falls into) will have to comply with human rights obligations.

It should be noted that a public authority or emanation of the State can have a very wide meaning in law and may cover privatized utilities companies (see Case C-188/89 Foster British Gas [1990]3 ALL ER 897 and Griffin v South West Water Services Ltd [1995] IRLR 15) and other private contractors delivering public services.

This is not the first time that I have written about private security companies falling foul foul of human rights laws. In a previous Blog (Private Enterprise or Public Service? published on 1 March 2019), I wrote about the private company, Sodexho falling foul of the Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to the treatment of female prisoners at the privately run Peterborough Prison (see the recent English High Court judgement: Between LW; Samantha Faulder; KT; MC v 1) Sodexho Limited and 2) Minister of Justice[2019] EWHC 367).

A link to the story as reported by Sky News about the Fund’s decision to divest its 2.3% stake in G4S can be found below:

Copyright – Seán J Crossan, 16 November 2019

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A legal blog by the author of Introductory Scots Law: Theory & Practice (3rd Edition: 2017; Hodder Gibson) Sean J. Crossan BA (Hons), LLB (Hons), MSc, TQFE I have been teaching law in Higher and Further Education for nearly 25 years. I also worked as an employment law consultant in a Glasgow law firm for over a decade. I am also a trade union representative and continue to make full use of my legal background. I am a graduate and postgraduate of the Universities of Dundee, London and Strathclyde. Please note that this Blog provides a general commentary about issues in Scots Law. It is not intended as a substitute for in-depth legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem, you should always consult a suitably qualified Scottish solicitor who will be able to provide you with the support that you require.

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