Seminar: Arms Exports, Due Diligence & Corporate Liability

Photo by the Dutch Ministry of Defence

The seminar 'Arms Exports, Due Diligence & Corporate Liability – State-Industry Nexus and Its Legal Implications' raises the question to what extent arms exporting companies can be held liable, if exported weapons are used to commit war crimes? The event is organised by Utrecht University’s Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE) and Centre for Accountability and Liability Law (UCALL).

In the recent report commissioned by the Flemish Peace Institute, Utrecht researchers Machiko Kanetake and Cedric Ryngaert (both affiliated to RENFORCE and/or UCALL) have addressed this question from the perspective of ‘due diligence’. Due diligence is an obligation of conduct, or an obligation to ‘make every effort’, as opposed to an obligation to achieve certain results. The report concluded that an arms exporting company’s failure to properly carry out due diligence could lead to legal liability.

The report also shows the need for further research and discussions in understanding the extent to which arms exporters could be held liable under various jurisdictions, and the extent to which international normative frameworks are relevant in regulating arms exporters. The workshop invites some of the prominent experts in the field and explores two broad themes: state-industry nexus and hard-soft law continuity.



 Arrival & coffee

13.15 – 14.00

Panel 1: Due diligence and corporate liability in the defence industry: the report’s findings

14.15 – 15.30

Panel 2: State-industry nexus and its legal implications

Due diligence and the associated liability of arms exporting companies have received relatively limited attention. This is partly due to the unique role that State authorities play over the defence sector and its military exports. State authorities have traditionally played a predominant role in the defence industry and governments continue to retain the authority to issue export licenses for military items. How precisely does this State-industry nexus affect the way corporate due diligence and liability are constructed?

15.45 – 17.00

Panel 3: Soft law – hard law continuity

In discussing due diligence, one of the most influential documents is the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The UNGPs also serve as a basis for OECD documents on due diligence. In the Guiding Principles, due diligence is understood as a set of comprehensive processes of identifying and mitigating ‘adverse impacts’ on human rights. The UNGPs also anticipate business enterprises to respect for the standards of international humanitarian law (IHL). The Guiding Principles are non-binding at the international level; yet this by no means explains its normative reach. To what extent does such a non-binding ‘soft law’ document ‘feed into’ the interpretation of ‘hard law’ regarding corporate liability, such as the interpretation of the duty of care?

Given the sensitivity of the discussions, the event takes place under Chatham House Rules.

The event is organised by Utrecht University’s Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE) (Building Block on EU value-based trade) and Centre for Accountability and Liability Law (UCALL).

Start date and time
End date and time
Social Impact Factory Aan de Gracht, Kromme Nieuwegracht 3, 3512 HC Utrecht

Please register for this seminar via the registration form