The US Supreme Court has authorized that food giants, Nestlé USA and Cargill, can’t be charged with child slavery on African farms from where they purchase their cocoa.
Six African men have claimed that they were trafficked from Mali and compelled to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast.
The group say both companies perpetuated that slave trade to keep cocoa prices low.
The court ruled 8-1 that the group had no stand because the abuse transpired outside the US.
However, it is short of a decisive ruling on whether the Alien Tort Act – an 18th-century law – could be used to hold US companies to account for labour abuses committed in their supply chains abroad.
About 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced
in West Africa, and much of this is sent out to America.
According to a report published by the US Department of Labor last year, it is calculated that about 1.56m children work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
In their claim, the group of men alleged that they were coerced to work on the cocoa farms for 12-14 hours a day. They also added that they were kept under armed guard while they slept, to prevent them from escaping, and were paid little beyond basic food.
While denouncing child slavery, the companies maintained the case should instead be made against the traffickers and the farmers who restrained them in such conditions.
In its ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court ruled that while Nestlé USA and Cargill empowered the farms with technical and financial resources, there was no proof that business decisions made in the US-led to the men’s forced labour.
Terry Collingsworth, executive director of International Rights Advocates, speaking to Fortune Magazine said “They decided on the budgets, they decided on the planning, on the business aspects – all those things were done from the US,”
Mr Collingsworth also said his legal team would file a new lawsuit, alleging that many decisions made by Nestlé and Cargill in the US helped to pave the way for the use of child slaves in Ivory Coast.
According to a statement, Nestlé USA said it had never engaged in child labour and continued in “unwavering in [its] dedication to combating child labour in the cocoa industry”.
Harphs is a literary enthusiast from Hardawa, Bauchi state. She finds her passion in writing, journalism and teaching.Harphs currently writes from Gombe, Nigeria. You can reach her via Hafseemuhammad@gmail.com