Red flags: Liability risks for companies operating in high-risk zones

This document lists activities that should raise a ‘red flag’, warning companies of possible legal risks, and the need for urgent action.

Exposure is greatest in high-risk zones such as wars, areas of widespread violence and human rights abuses, or in states ruled by repressive regimes.

In particular, business activities can create liabilities under laws governing international sanctions, financial misconduct, and international crimes (e.g. torture, atrocities, and mass killings).

Companies, their board members, executives or employees, can all be held accountable for corporate and individual actions.

Liability can arise when the crimes are committed by others, such as business or trading partners and security providers. Crimes committed near company operations by others may generate liability. Even inaction may result in liability. Ignorance is no defence.

Industry codes of conduct and international guidelines are useful signposts, but they may not be sufficient to ensure that companies steer clear of these liabilities.