Accountability for Corporate Human Rights Abuses: Lessons from the Possible Exercise of Dutch National Criminal Jurisdiction over Multinational Corporations

Open Access


In the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, little emphasis has been put on the criminal law as a mechanism to hold corporations to account. From a doctrinal perspective, the main stumbling block for a more intensive use of the criminal law appears to be how to establish jurisdiction and liability with regard to corporate involvement in human rights violations in transnational supply-chains. On closer inspection, however, domestic criminal law offers surprising, although largely untested opportunities in this respect. Criminal liability could notably be based on violations of a corporate duty of care violation, whereas jurisdiction could, relatively non-controversially, be grounded on the principles of territoriality, nationality, and universality. The Dutch criminal law system is used as a case-study in this article.

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© The Author(s) 2017

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LawUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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