Chocolate companies are among the defendants named in a lawsuit brought by former child workers in Ivory Coast
Eight children who claim they were used as slave labour on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast have launched legal action against the world’s biggest chocolate companies. They accuse the corporations of aiding and abetting the illegal enslavement of “thousands” of children on cocoa farms in their supply chains.
Nestlé, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Mars, Olam, Hershey and Mondelēz have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by the human rights firm International Rights Advocates (IRA), on behalf of eight former child slaves who say they were forced to work without pay on cocoa plantations in the west African country.
The plaintiffs, all of whom are originally from Mali and are now young adults, are seeking damages for forced labour and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress. <snip>
Katyal appeared in the Supreme Court to defend two corporations accused of abetting child slavery. Katyal, arguing on behalf of the food giants, said the case should be tossed because U.S. courts have no authority to hear the dispute. The six unnamed plaintiffs were once child slaves on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, having been kidnapped and trafficked from Mali. The plaintiffs say they were held under armed guard in deplorable conditions, beaten, and tortured if they tried to escape. “From the United States, [Nestlé] had complete control over the farms’ labor practices, knew that the farmers they were assisting were using and continued to use forced child labor, and purposefully relied on the enslavement of children to increase profits by ensuring the flow of cheap cocoa,” the plaintiffs’ filings read.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against [PDF] Nestlé USA and Cargill under the ATS, finding grounds for their corporate liability and role in aiding and abetting child slavery and forced labor in the Ivory Coast. Before the Supreme Court, Nestlé USA and Cargill argued that there is no corporate liability whatsoever under the ATS, even for companies incorporated under U.S. law with operations in the United States. In their view, only individuals can be sued under the ATS for violating universally accepted norms of international law.