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Human Rights Violations

Could tobacco executives/corporations

be found guilty of human right violations?

A general view of participants during the 29th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. 22 June 2015. UN Photo / Jean-Marc FerrŽ

ASH is investigating the possibility of holding tobacco corporations responsible for tobacco-related deaths under human rights laws. These charges, for example, a violation of the right to life or right to health, among many others, would be levied against governments for not protecting their citizens.

Some legal systems have mechanisms to hold the government and corporations responsible. In other systems, a human rights case would be directed solely against a government, but then that government would be required (or in some cases, recommended) to enforce tobacco control laws within their countries. The governments could then in turn enforce or create laws that would affect tobacco corporations and executives, for example, by implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

There are several options for utilizing human rights laws to enforce tobacco control. One option is pursuing a case under a regional human rights treaty, like in the Inter-American system, European system, or African system.

ASH and our partners are also examining how international treaties could help enforce tobacco control laws and/or hold the tobacco industry accountable for human rights violations. There are many treaty options, and they encompass many different human rights that are implicated in tobacco production, marketing, and sales.

Check out our human rights resources