At Supreme Court: Can US courts be venue for human rights cases from abroad?

October 2, 2012

By , Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON–The US Supreme Court opened its 2012-13 term on Monday with oral argument in a case examining whether a foreign corporation can be sued in a US court for allegedly aiding and abetting human rights abuses in a foreign country.

The case marks the second time in eight years the high court has taken up an appeal involving the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a law dating from the first Congress in 1789.

The statute allows noncitizens to sue in US courts for human rights violations and other breaches of international law. What the law doesn’t state explicitly is whether the ATS applies everywhere – or merely to wrongful conduct within the US or that is otherwise linked to the US.

The question before the court is whether to uphold a lawsuit filed by 12 Nigerian citizens against Royal Dutch Petroleum for allegedly aiding and abetting in human rights abuses by the Nigerian government and its armed forces 20 years ago.

Lawyers for the oil company argue that corporations cannot be held liable under the ATS. They are also urging the high court to declare that the ATS does not extend to conduct by foreign corporations in a foreign country.

Human rights lawyers counter that there is nothing in the text of the ATS limiting its reach.

Several justices seemed reluctant to embrace a broad reading of the statute to allow foreign corporations to be sued for alleged actions in a foreign country harming foreign citizens.

Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether such a position might come back to haunt the US and its interests. He asked whether under the same legal principle a US corporation that committed an international law violation in the United States could be sued in any court in the world.

“There are many jurisdictions in which US corporations could be sued,” said Paul Hoffman, theCalifornia lawyer for the Nigerian plaintiffs.

To read more, visit:

No comments yet - you can be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep the Fake News Media in check.

Don’t let the MSM censor your news as America becomes Great Again. Over 500,000 Americans receive our daily dose of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness along with Breaking News direct to their inbox—and you can too. Sign up to receive news and views from The 1776Coalition!

We know how important your privacy is and your information is SAFE with us. We’ll never sell
your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time directly from your inbox.
View our full privacy policy.