Our human rights and environmental legal practice was initially set up in 2011 in response to a massive under-representation of communities suffering serious chronic ill health and environmental degradation of their villages and townships from air pollution and water/ground contamination caused by the tailing wastes and by-products of foreign-owned mine operations.
This remains an area of key priority for our work, which includes:
- International group claims against rogue companies who pollute, contaminate, and/or violate human rights during the course of their commercial operations in the UK and abroad;
- Violations of individual or collective fundamental rights, both domestic and international;
- Climate justice strategic litigation;
- Provision of advice and strategic litigation development for front line civil society organisations on a wide area of environmental and human rights issues; and
- Actively convening and participating in forums to facilitate expert exchanges and innovation in the law regarding climate change and remedies for victims of human rights.
We currently act for communities in two countries in Eastern Africa, and are conducting further extensive investigations on behalf of villagers who live and work on remote plantations for British companies. These are serious allegations of labour rights abuse and of the excessively high pollution and contamination of soil and river water due to recklessly indifferent mine operations.
We recently settled a case in Kodaikanal India, where over 500 former workers of a thermometer factory had been living with the adverse health effects of mercury contamination due to consistent failures by the company to protect them from harm. They had tried to get justice for 15 years through the Madras courts without success until we issued proceedings against the British parent company in the High Court, following which the matter settled within 11 months.
We have provided legal support and advice for front line organisations, for example we have worked with communities affected by hydropower dam builds in Northern Iraq and Brazil, Masai villages affected by tourism operators on their land in Tanzania, threats to customary owned land by palm oil operators in Liberia acting without free and informed consent, communities poisoned by lead smelting works in Kazakhstan, and large scale mine operators in dispute with local communities in South America and South Africa, amongst others.
In the course of our international group claim work, it became evident that there are many more contamination related issues in the affected communities than we are able to deal with in a judicial context. Where we can, we work to strengthen UK/EU access to justice mechanisms, and bring to light the endemic and wide spread nature of the toxic and extremely impoverished environments within which these communities live and work to those who might bring about transformative change through UN and other specialised agencies. In addition, climate change has affected them disproportionately, and we convened the Climate Change Litigation Forum in London in 2016 in an effort to find ways to ensure European governments are kept on target to reduce their emissions so they meet their commitments in the Paris Agreement toward zero emissions in the second half of the century.