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22 June 2021

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SLAPPed but not silenced – First global analysis of SLAPPs provided by Business & Human Rights Ressource Centre

In June 2021, Business & Human Rights Ressource Centre launched a report analysing the use of SLAPPs globally: “SLAPPed but not silenced: Defending human rights in the face of legal risks”. The full briefing is available in English and Spanish and the Executive Summary is available in French.

This research builds upon the vital work and research of many human rights defenders and civil society coalitions, including Asina LoyikoCoalition Against SLAPPs in EuropeOn ne se taira pas, and Protect the Protest, to stop the use of SLAPPs.

This first-ever global analysis of lawsuits which bear the hallmarks of SLAPPs brought or initiated by business actors reveals that powerful entities are abusing legal systems across the world to intimidate and silence defenders and communities who speak out against corporate abuse. 

Key findings

  • We identified 355 cases that cases that bear the hallmarks of SLAPPs brought or initiated by business actors since 2015 against individuals and groups related to their defense of human rights and/or the environment. This figure is likely to be the tip of the iceberg, recognizing the time-specific nature of our research scope and the challenges of identifying SLAPPs and directly linking them to the companies involved. 
  • We identified 106 companies and businesspeople involved in bringing or initiating these cases. At least 11 of these companies were repeat offenders, having been involved in more than one judicial proceeding. These included: Thammakaset (Thailand), Inversiones Los Pinares (Honduras), MMG Limited Las Bambas (Peru), and Lydian Armenia (Armenia).  
  • The highest number of SLAPPs took place in Latin America (39%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (25%), Europe & Central Asia (18%), North America (9%), Africa (8.5%), and MENA (0.5 %). Nearly three-quarters (73%) of cases were brought in countries in the Global South. 
  • 63% of cases involved criminal charges. 
  • Most individuals and groups facing SLAPPs (65% of cases) raised concerns about projects in four sectors: mining (108), agriculture and livestock (76), logging and lumber (29), and palm oil (20). 
  • The amount of damages sought by those filing SLAPPs in just 82 of the cases totalled to over 1.5 billion USD (information on damages sought was not available publicly for the remaining cases).   

In addition to our briefing, we have also launched:

  • database of 150+ cases the bear the hallmarks of SLAPPs
  • New SLAPP portal on our website with relevant resources
  • Eleven videos from HRDs, NGO representatives, and policymakers sharing their insights about SLAPPs
  • Blog piece: Fighting back against the use of litigation to quash dissent”

We are very grateful to the individuals, organizations, and coalitions who shared their stories, expertise, and insights as part of this research. 

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights also released a statement  signed by 44 investors representing $270 billion assets under management calling on companies to take broad, systemic action to protect human rights defenders, and immediate action to ensure that they do not use or support SLAPPs against individuals, organizations, or communities who peacefully promote or protect human rights and the environment. 

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