Historic ruling proves World Bank Group is not above the law

A US Supreme Court ruling has ended the immunity of International Finance Corportation (ICF) in US based lawsuits. The 7-1 ruling was in a suit filed by Indian fishing communities affected by an ICF project. The plaintiffs were represented by international law group Earthrights.

ICF is World Bank Group’s private sector lending arm. According to a press release on the Earthrights website, “the IFC has operated as if it were “above the law,” at times pursuing reckless lending projects that inflicted serious human rights abuses on local communities, and then leaving the communities to fend for themselves.” This historic defeat has set a precedent that “abusive corporations, governments and banks are not above the law, no matter where they operate”. In the past, organisations like ICF have claimed an entitlement to “absolute immunity”, regardless of the activities they engage in.

The plaintiffs in the case were communities in Gujarat, India whos “livelihoods, air quality, and drinking water have been devastated” by an ICF-funded power plant. The members of the community allege that the developers of the project were aware of these risks prior to beginning constriction, but decided to “recklessly push forward with the project without proper protections in place”.

Prior to the case reaching the supreme court, the affected communities attempted to express their grievances directly to ICF, but were ignored. They ultimately filed a lawsuit in the US as ICF’s headquarters is in Washington DC. This was supported by the US government Departments of Justice and State and members of both congressional parties.  

In response to the ruling, plaintiff Dr. Bharat Patel, head of the fishworkers’ rights group MASS said “We are extremely happy with the decision of the Supreme Court of US. This is a huge victory for the people of Mundra in particular and other places in general, where World Bank’s faulty investments are wrecking communities and environment. This is major step towards holding World Bank accountable for the negative impacts their investments are causing.”

For more information, see https://earthrights.org/media/historic-supreme-court-win-world-bank-group-is-not-above-the-law/

Sonja Duncan