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Siemens Linked to Major Rights Abuses Across Americas

Siemens Linked to Major Rights Abuses Across Americas

German technology giant confronted with proof of wrongdoing at annual shareholder meeting

Munich, Germany – Dozens of protestors from a coalition of German and international organizations converged today on the shareholder meeting of leading German corporation Siemens to condemn the company's role in egregious human rights violations from Brazil to Mexico. Citing a litany of violations, protestors underscored Siemens' responsibility as a major equipment supplier to projects and governments that deliberately disregard international rights conventions, leading to abuses including the intimidation and murder of human rights defenders.

Among the fiercest controversies invoked in today's shareholder counterproposals was Siemens' key role in Brazil's Belo Monte mega-dam, currently under construction in the Amazon. Today's interventions showed how the company's joint venture with Germany's Voith Hydro to sell huge hydroelectric turbines to Belo Monte's dam consortium Norte Energia undermines Siemens' purported respect for human rights and the rule of law.

After hearing accusations into the dam's myriad human rights violations at Siemens' 2014 shareholder meeting, CEO Joe Kaeser demanded proof of these irregularities, as well as those of another notorious dam project in Honduras known as Agua Zarca. In the run-up to today's meeting, Mr. Kaeser received irrevocable evidence that his company is abetting some of the world's most disreputable projects.

"The involvement of Siemens in Belo Monte and Agua Zarca shows without a doubt that the company's Managing Board violates the UN Guiding Principles, Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, and its own corporate governance guidelines," asserted David Vollrath from the German initiative CounterCurrent.

Prior to the shareholder meeting, activists circulated two dossiers documenting "severe" human rights abuses of local populations linked to the dams, demanding that Siemens institute sweeping reforms in its business practice and policy, including a "commitment to exclude projects that exhibit marked human rights irregularities from the company's future business portfolio". Detailing violations of the right to consultation, the right to land, culture, food, health, and the right to due process, the dossiers spearhead a call for corporate accountability.

"The Siemens board employs the flawed logic that rights violations associated with its global portfolio is not their problem," stated Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch. "The opposite is true: companies directly participating in egregious projects cannot disassociate themselves from violations in an attempt to avoid their own obligation to uphold these rights."

In addition to Siemens' role in the polemic Brazilian and Honduran dams, today's shareholder counterproposals also denounce the company's role in wind energy projects in southern Mexico that have been violently imposed upon local people, spurring corruption and intimidation, thereby "wrecking the social structures in the communities".

"European shareholders are often unaware of the human rights abuses their investments are provoking in the global south," said Andrea Lammers of Öko-Büro Munich. "Ethically minded shareholders should hold companies responsible by learning the brutal facts about these projects and how the Siemens Managing Board deliberately turns a blind eye to these violations in order to turn a profit."

"As demonstrated by Belo Monte, serious human rights violations including the lack of free, prior and informed consultation and consent among threatened indigenous peoples are abundantly evident in the early stages of planning and licensing of mega-projects," stated Brent Millikan of International Rivers. "Major equipment suppliers such as Siemens need to see the writing on the wall and ensure effective safeguards to avoid participation in disastrous projects."


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