Das französische Gesetz über die menschenrechtliche due diligence von Muttergesellschaften und Auftrag gebenden Unternehmen
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On 21st February 2017 numerous NGOs and other human rights organizations cheerfully welcomed a new law passed by the French Assemblée Nationale dealing with human rights obligations by (transnational) companies. The law declares parent companies to be responsible for economic operations not only of their affiliates but also of suppliers and contractors. In the future, companies with headquarters in France having at least 5.000 employees in France or with at least 10.000 employees worldwide, will have to create a »plan one vigilance« and as such perform a »human rights due diligence« aimed at assessing in which way affiliates, suppliers or contractors violated human rights within their economic operations. However, the law does not regulate in detail the content of the due diligence and therefore causes significant legal uncertainty among affected companies. The law merely states that further details of the so-called »plan de vigilance« will have to be clarified by the issuance of ordinances. Originally, in the adequately case of human rights violations, parent companies could even be obliged to make penalty payments in case the parent companies did not adequately take into consideration possible risks regarding human rights violations realized by affiliates, suppliers or contractors. On 23rd March 2017 the French Constitutional Court declared the possibility to hold parent companies responsible incompatible with the French constitution on the basis of the Law's vagueness. Apart from these constitutional aspects, the passing of the law is also interesting from the perspective of public international law. Until today the responsibility of transnational companies was primarily based on softlaw documents having no legally-binding character. The law enacted by the French legislator seems to be the first step towards holding parent companies liable, at least at the domestic level. Furthermore, as of 2014 a working group created by the Human Rights Council based on resolution number 26/9 is currently trying to prepare a multilateral treaty foreseeing clear responsibilities for contracting states to hold their (parent) companies liable for human rights violations. In this regard, the French law seems to be an important step within a greater, human rights friendly development. The question thus arises whether the law could have a role model effect for other countries, such as Germany.