US Supreme Court Says Child Labor in West Africa Cannot Sue Chocolate Firms

The Supreme Court of the US has ruled food giants Cargill, and Nestlé USA cannot be sued in a case of child slavery that happened in African farms from where these companies buy their cocoa. Six men from Africa alleged that they were brought from Mali and forced to work in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa farms. The group told both companies encouraged the slave trade to keep cocoa prices low.

The court ruled 8-1, saying that the group had no strong points as the abuse happened outside the United States. However, it stopped short of a definite ruling on the Alien Tort Act. It is still in question whether this 18th-century law could hold the US companies responsible for labor abuses happening in their supply chains abroad.

Around 70% of the cocoa in the world is produced in West Africa, and a greater amount of this is exported to America. It is assumed that about 1.56m children work on the cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, according to the US Department of Labor report 2020.

The lawsuit and The Court’s Decision

The group of men in their lawsuit alleged that they were trafficked and had worked almost 12-14 hours a day forcefully on the cocoa farms. They also said that they were kept under armed guards who prevented them from escaping and paid very little beyond food. While criticizing child slavery, the food companies argued that the case should be done against the traffickers and farmers who kept these men in such terrific conditions and not them.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in the decision, wrote that the court ruled out the allegations as there was no evidence that decisions of these businesses made in the US resulted in the forced labor of men even though both companies provided farms financial and technical resources.

For all the activists who fought against chocolate firms for many years, the ruling came as a surprise. The executive director of International Rights Advocate, Terry Collingsworth, said that these companies decide on the planning, work on the budgets, and almost everything from the US. Mr. Collingsworth and his legal team would file a new lawsuit as many decisions are made by these companies and alleged that these companies from the US help to pave the way for child slavey in Ivory Coast. Nestlé USA, in a statement, said that it had never encouraged child labor and has always remained dedicated to combating child labor in the cocoa industry.

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