CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — While many victims of human rights violations were waiting for the implementation of the conflict minerals provision, set to take place in six weeks, the United States Appeals Court of the District of Columbia overturned the measure, on the basis that it violates the First Amendment rights of those corporations that benefit directly or indirectly from human rights abuses in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s mines.
In response to the Congo civil war, where over five million people were killed, the US Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010.
Within this legislation was Section 1502, also known as the conflict minerals provision, requiring American companies to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission by May 31, 2014, whether their products contain conflict-minerals or ‘human rights violation’ minerals — such as minerals attained through child labor practices. Yet, in support of corporate arguments, the appeals court determined on April 14 that the disclosure rules are unconstitutional, as companies should not be forced to reveal such practices because it forces speech that stigmatizes the company’s own products.
This ruling confirms that the freedom of speech is a paramount right and value, having priority over the right not to be subjected to labor exploitation or inhumane treatment.