December 3, 2007
Indian court issues international arrest warrants
for Dutch labour activists
NGOs, Unions outraged at attempt to imprison human rights defenders
Amsterdam, December 3, 2007 – An Indian magistrate Court ruled on
Saturday that international warrants will be issued for the arrest of Dutch
human rights activists, report the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the
India Committee of the Netherlands, two of the organizations whose staff
are being charged in connection with their efforts to raise awareness of
rights violations at an Indian factory supplying Dutch jeans company G-Star.
On the 4th of December, the court will send the case to the Indian Ministry
of Home Affairs, asking it to execute the arrest warrants and request
extradition of the 8 Dutch nationals.
“Our ‘crime’ is to have published workers testimonies on our websites,
information which is publicly accessible in India, and to have shared this
information with brands and the media,” said Ineke Zeldenrust from CCC.
“If the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs decides to extradite us to personally
stand trial, it will have serious consequences for all human rights and
corporate accountability organisations”. Criminalizing free speech obviously
sets a negative precedent that has an impact on all levels of society, but the
international trade and business community should specifically take notice
of this case as it makes the credible implementation of corporate social
responsibility policies in India impossible.
Indian jeans producer Fibres and Fabrics International (FFI) and its subsidiary
Jeans Knits Pvt. Ltd have been pursuing legal action against Indian and
international civil society groups, including the Clean Clothes Campaign
(CCC) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), in an attempt to
restrict fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Local organisations are under a gag order, preventing them from supporting
the workers for almost one and a half years now. Their case won’t be heard in
court until April, 2008. FFI’s owner has also filed suit against internet service
provider Antenna, whose director is among the 8 Dutch nationals faced with
an arrest warrant, and CCC’s adsl provider Xs4all. Clearly, FFI is interested
only in silencing its critics, and is trying to scare civil society as well as internet
companies with slapsuits. CCC, ICN and Antenna will appeal the decision in
the High Court tomorrow.
At the heart of the issue is CCC and ICN’s publication of information on
workers’ reports of rights violations at FFI. The case obtained a high-level
political profile when India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Kamal Nath,
brought it up with the Dutch government during the Dutch royal visit to India
on October 28th. Nath claimed that public criticism of labour conditions is
akin to putting up ‘technical barriers to trade’. See:
“Today’s ruling flies in the face of India’s obligations to uphold freedom of
speech,” said Gerard Oonk, of the India Committee of the Netherlands. “We
call upon the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs to stop this case from going
any further, and upon the Dutch government and the European Union to
protect human rights activists, and to take this matter up directly with India at
the highest political level”.
After nearly two years of trying to reach an agreement in the case, the only
remaining client of FFI is Dutch company G-star. The company has been
asked to make future orders conditional on a mediated dialogue between
FFI and local labour groups, and the withdrawal of all court cases. While
publicly claiming to agree with FFI’s critics, G-star refuses to take action,
stating that it is in the best interest of the workers to continue business as
“We believe G-star is violating the international standard on freedom of
association, as well as its own code of conduct, and should make sure
workers have decent jobs” says Arno Dahlmans from the Dutch trade union
federation FNV, who represented the European and International Textile
and Garment Workers Federations in a recent attempt to reach a solution.
“At this point in time G-star should walk the talk, and make it clear to FFI
that they will place their future orders with a supplier in Bangalore who is
willing to respect freedom of association”.
Ineke Zeldenrust, CCC, Tel. +31-20-412 27 85, +31-6-51280210, email@example.com
Gerard Oonk, ICN Tel. +31-30-23 21 340, +31-6-51015260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Esther de Haan, CCC, Tel. +31-20-412 27 85, +31-6-422 43 153, email@example.com
In October Amnesty International (AI) voiced concern over the harassment of
defenders of women workers’ rights (read AI’s full statement at
http://www.cleanclothes.org/news/07-10-02.htm) and called upon the
Indian government to uphold its obligations under international human
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has also condemned
what they deem government support for an employer cover-up or worker
rights abuses. “All these people have done is to try to tell the truth about
severe exploitation of the FFI workers,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy
Ryder, in a Nov.9th statement. Referring to the lawsuit against CCC and ICN,
he noted “actions of this kind can only hurt India’s reputation as a country with
which global companies can do business in confidence, and we urge them to
put a stop to this unacceptable attack on freedom of speech and fundamental
The Clean Clothes Campaign is an international network of trade unions and NGOs that aims to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.
The India Committee of the Netherlands labours on behalf of the underprivileged in India. It does so via campaigns, information and investigation.