Corporations, international crimes and national courts: a Norwegian view
30-09-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 887, by Simon O’Connor
For a number of reasons, questions regarding the accountability of corporations for actions that might be complicit in the commission of international crimes have gained prominence in recent times. Though initiatives regarding what is more broadly described as business and human rights are to be welcomed, this sometimes distracts from existing systems of accountability, especially when those acts, which may be discussed as human rights violations, equally constitute crimes. Whilst not all criminal jurisdictions extend to legal persons, the Norwegian Penal Code does. This article analyses the Norwegian Penal Code’s provisions, in light of amendments made to it in 2008 to include international crimes in it, with the effect of extending those crimes to corporations. The article first addresses the personal, material, temporal, and geographical scope of the penal code. It then addresses the potential consequence of the exercise of jurisdiction in light of the only case in recent times in Norway that deals explicitly with a corporation’s potential criminal liability for war crimes. The article then addresses three additional issues with respect to provisions on complicity, intent, and defences under the Norwegian Penal Code, before concluding with some reflections on the possible future effects of this legislation and the possibility that it will inspire developments elsewhere.
Keywords: corporate liability, war crimes, domestic legislation, jurisdiction, Norwegian Penal Code.
Simon O’Connor is a barrister and a Legal Adviser for the Norwegian Red Cross. He is also currently a Research Associate at the Institute for Ethics Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford, where he was a Visiting Fellow in 2011.