Multinational Enterprises and Human Rights
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Multinational Enterprises and Human Rights

Obligations under EU Law and International Law

Alexandra Gatto

This well-researched book examines how the European Union could do more to ensure that EU-based multinational enterprises (MNEs) respect human rights when operating in third world countries. Alexandra Gatto identifies the primary obligations of MNEs as developed by international law, and investigates how the EU has promoted the respect of human rights obligations by the MNEs to date.
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Chapter 2: Multinational Enterprises as Addresses of International Law

Alexandra Gatto


2 Multinational enterprises as addressees of international law 2.1 INTRODUCTION The question of whether MNEs can be held accountable at the international level for human rights violations raises the difficult problem of whether corporations can acquire rights and duties under international law. As discussed above, MNEs pose challenges to traditional legal categories.1 Firstly, the status of MNEs is not expressly recognized under international law. MNEs defines more an economic entity, rather than a legal one. Its branches, subsidiaries and shareholders can be spread across many States and create an economic unity. In addition, most of the distorting power of MNEs derives from decisions and activities taking place outside the particular country and therefore outside the control of the State.2 This chapter argues that the concept of legal personality, as defined by recent development in international practice, doctrine and case law, is evidence of the fact that MNEs have increasingly become the addressees of norms under the international legal system. 2.2 THE CONCEPT OF LEGAL PERSONALITY The concept of legal personality in international law,3 as in all branches of law, means that a person possesses the capacity to be the subject of legally 1 2 Henkin, supra Ch.1 n. 143, at 161. Ibid., at 103. 3 Subject is used synonymously with the term legal personality. According to Mosler ‘subjects and personality became interchangeable for two reasons: in classical international law States were, with some anomalous exceptions, the only subjects of international law [. . .]. The second reason is the still controversial question...

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