International

The seven plaintiffs were recruited from their home villages in rural Cambodia to work at factories in Songkhla, Thailand producing shrimp and seafood for export to the United States. SSF, a family-owned Thai corporation, and Phatthana, a Thai corporation, own the factories at which Plaintiffs worked. They allegedly became victims of human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and peonage. The defendants sell their shrimp and seafood to large U.S. customers like Walmart and include California-based Rubicon Resources, LLC, and an affiliate, Wales & Co. Universe Ltd. Rubicon and Wales, which have addresses in the United States, did not recruit or employ Plaintiffs, but are alleged to have benefitted from their labor.

Each paid high recruitment fees to obtain jobs in Thailand. Several mortgaged family farmland and went deep into debt to finance the fees and travel costs, expenses they planned to repay with the promised wages.  But when they arrived at the Thai factory, the villagers learned that they would be paid less than promised and that their already meager wages would be further reduced by unexpected salary deductions for housing, fees, and other charges. They worked long hours in harsh conditions and were packed into crowded housing with inadequate sanitation facilities. They were not permitted to leave the factories to return home. Instead, their passports were withheld and they were ordered to pay off the “fees they had incurred”. Some of the workers did not make enough money to afford food.

Phatthana seeks summary judgment on the only claim alleged against it – violation of the TVPRA – on the grounds that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over that claim because all of the alleged human trafficking of Plaintiffs occurred in Cambodia and Thailand and Phatthana, a Thai company, does not fall under TVPRA’s limited grant of extraterritorial jurisdiction. In addition, Phattahana seeks summary judgment on the grounds that Phattahana did not violate the TVPRA with respect to Plaintiffs Ban, Nakry, and Sang.

The Court granted Phattana Seafood Co., S.S. Frozen Food Co., Rubicon Resources, and Wales & Co. Universe's motion for summary judgment in its entirety.  

The applicants – 42 Bangladeshi nationals – were recruited in Athens and other parts of Greece between the end of 2012 and early 2013, without a Greek work permit, to work at the main strawberry farm in Manolada. Their employers failed to pay the applicants’ wages and obliged them to work in difficult physical conditions under the supervision of armed guards. The applicants alleged that they had been subjected to forced or compulsory labour. They further submitted that the State was under an obligation to prevent their being subjected to human trafficking, to adopt preventive measures for that purpose and to punish the employers. The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 4 § 2 (prohibition of forced labour) of the Convention, finding that the applicants had not received effective protection from the Greek State. The Court noted, in particular, that the applicants’ situation was one of human trafficking and forced labour, and specified that exploitation through labour was one aspect of trafficking in human beings. The Court also found that the State had failed in its obligations to prevent the situation of human trafficking, to protect the victims, to conduct an effective investigation into the offences committed and to punish those responsible for the trafficking. 

The Court of Appeal considered aspects of the defence of duress under section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The judgment restates the law concerning child victims of trafficking, confirming that once it had been established that the child was a victim of trafficking for the purposes of exploitation, the relevant consideration was whether there was a sufficient nexus between the trafficking and the offence; it was not necessary to show there was compulsion to commit the offence, as required for an adult. The court ruled that the provisions did not have retrospective effect.

A group of Eritreans sued Nevsun Resources Ltd. – a British Columbia company – under customary international law as incorporated into the law of Canada over forced labor, slavery, torture, curel, inhuman or degrading treatment and crimes against humanity involving its subsidiary operating company. Shortly thereafter, Nevsun applied to the court for an order staying the Canadian proceeding, arguing that Eritrea was the more appropriate forum; Nevsun also sought an order striking claims that Nevsun had violated customary international law, arguing that those claims are not cognizable under Canadian law. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on these two important issues.  First, after an extensive investigation of Eritrea’s legal system and government, the court found that Nevsun had not proven that Eritrea was the “more appropriate forum.”  Second, the court refused to strike the claims based on purported violations of customary international law. 

The Claimants are six individuals who alleged they were trafficked from Lithuania and subjected to severe labour exploitation on chicken farms in the UK. The Claimants have all been confirmed to be victims of trafficking by the UK Human Trafficking Centre or the Home Office. The Judge found in favour of the Claimants on several claims including that they were not paid according to minimum wage requirements for agricultural workers. The Defendants were also found to have made unlawful deductions or unlawfully withheld wages for an "employment fee" and in relation to rent, and failed to ensure the workers have adequate facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink. This marked the first time the High Court ruled in favour of victims of trafficking, in the first civil case against a British company.

  • Mohammed Rafiq (Januaray 2016)

Mohammed Rafiq, owner of the UK bed-making business Kozee Sleep, was convicted of conspiracy to traffic. Rafiq’s conviction followed the two Hungarian gangmasters who were found guilty of supplying slave labour to the UK factories run by KozeeSleep and its subsidiary Layzee Sleep. The two Hungarian gangmasters promised Hungarian workers good wages and accommondation if they travelled to the UK. Instead, the workers were detained in overcrowded, squalid conditions, and forced to work up to 16 hours a day, often for up to seven days a week and for less than £2 a day. The court concluded that Rafiq had knowingly employed these trafficked men and "went along with their exploitation as a slave workforce."  This marked the first conviction of a UK-based business owner under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.  

A consumer filed a putative class action against Cosco alleging that the company sells prawns from Thailand "derived from a supply chain that depends upon documented slavery, human trafficking and other illegal labor abuses" and that Costco failed to advise its consumers allegedly amount to unlawful business practices, misleading and deceptive advertising, and a violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. The plaintiff argued that she was harmed because she purchased shrimp relying on Costco’s misrepresentation. The court disagreed after Costco provided records of the plaintiff’s purchases, which the company tracks through its membership program. Accordingly the court granted Costco’s motion to dismiss but allowed the plaintiff leave to amend.

The case involved child trafficking for labour exploitation. The Crown Prosecution Service was entitled to prosecute foreign national youths, who had worked as gardeners in cannabis factories, with drug offences where they had not been compelled to commit offences under Article 26 of the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The burden of showing that the process was being, or had been abused, on the basis of the improper exercise of the prosecutorial discretion rested on a defendant. 

A 15-year-old girl from Togo had been held in servitude and the European Court of Human Rights found that there has been a violation of France’s positive obligations under the prohibition of slavery and forced labour, because French law had not afforded her specific and effective protection. The Court noted that although the elements in the proper sense of ’forced and compulsory labour’ and ’slavery’ in this case were not there, facts show that she was in an equivalent situation in terms of seriousness of the threat and the deprivation of her personal autonomy. 

The case concerned the death of a Russian victim, who was trafficked from Russia to Cyprus under the artiste visa scheme, for the purpose of sexual exploitation in a cabaret. The Court found trafficking to be a violation of Article 4 and applied the principle of the positive obligation of States to protect trafficking victims.

The Trial Chamber, observing that “involuntariness is the fundamental definitional feature of ‘forced or compulsory labour’,” held that: “[This is a] factual question which has to be considered in light of all the relevant circumstances on a case by case basis... What must be established is that the relevant persons had no real choice as to whether they would work.”

The ICTY’s Appellate Chamber noted that the conditions and treatment at the detention camp combined with the climate of fear made free consent impossible. Therefore, “it may neither be expected of a detainee that he voice an objection nor held that a person in a position of authority need threaten him with punishment if he refuses to work in order for [the offence of] forced labour to be established.”

This case marked the first time that the ICTY had prosecuted enslavement as crime against humanity. Kunarac, the commander of a special unit for reconnaisance of the Bosnian Serb Army, raped and imprisoned Muslim women during the on-going armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The victims were forced to cook, clean and have sex with numerous subordinate soldiers. It was concluded that the concept of enslavement was not only about property and ownership but also many other ways in which individuals can and do exercise complete and effective control over others. 

 

Domestic

This judicial review raises the issue of the nature and scope of the protection afforded to a person under Article 4 of the Bill of Rights. The applicant alleged that the officers of the Immigration Department, the Hong Kong Police, and the Labour Department did not take action to investigate his complaints as a case of human trafficking for servitude or forced labour, thus denying him the protection of his right under the Article 4 of the Bill of Rights. The Court found the applicant to be a victim of human trafficking for forced labour and that the applicant was denied protection under Article 4 of the Bill of Rights as a result of the Hong Kong Government's failure to enact measures to ensure the prohibition of forced or compulsory labour.   

This trial involved 3 domestic helpers from Indonesia who were employed by the defendant at different times. Victim Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was kept as a prisoner in the home of the defendant who regularly deprived her of food, sleep and payment for long hours of grueling work. Victim was punched, beaten, stripped of her clothes and splashed with cold water and subjected to a blowing fan. Defendant was found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent - the most serious offence among her convictions on 18 charges, ranging from assault and criminal intimidation to failing to pay salary.