On 2 October 2017, Piergiuseppe Parisi and Gareth Sims presented a paper titled ‘Hindrances to Access to a Remedy in Business-related Cases in Colombia: The Case of Gilberto Torres’ at the conference The Responsibility of Home States, the European Union, and International Organizations in the area of Business and Human Rights and Testimonies from Communities and Individuals Impacted by Business Activities, held at the University of Aarhus (Denmark).
Surya Deva and Michael K Addo, of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights attended the conference, which aimed both at spotlighting victims’ experiences in cases of business-related human rights violations and at identifying possible solutions at the domestic, regional, and international level. Piergiuseppe and Gareth presented the case of Gilberto Torres, a long-standing friend of the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group, as paradigmatic of the several obstacles that plague the pursuit of justice in cases involving the responsibility of businesses.
In February 2002, Gilberto Torres was abducted by paramilitaries, tortured, and kept prisoner for 42 days allegedly because of his affiliation to Union Sindical Obrera (USO), a trade union in the oil sector. Fortuitously released in April 2002, ha was forced to leave Colombia in an almost 15-year-long exile. Since then, he has strenuously pursued justice not only against the material perpetrators of his kidnapping, but also against companies allegedly involved in the crime, including Colombian company ECOPETROL and UK giant BP. Mr Torres has sought legal remedies in Colombia, the US, and the UK, and, as result, he is now facing severe security risks in Colombia, where he has returned last year.
The paper, which has prompted a thoughtful debate over the issue of state responsibilities as regards the protection of Mr Torres and the international legal framework on redress for such violations, will feature in a publication due in 2018. The book will include a collection of victims’ experiences with the aim to re-focus the debate around business responsibility for human rights violations on rights-holders.