U.S. Supreme Court

US Courts Can Hear Claims for Human Rights Abuses in Other Countries, Says ABA Amicus Brief

The ABA is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear claims for international law violations that occur outside the United States.

U.S. courts have jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute, the ABA argues in an amicus brief (PDF) filed last month. The Supreme Court ordered reargument on March 5 to address the jurisdictional issue in a suit seeking to hold oil companies accountable for alleged human rights violations in Nigeria. The original issue before the high court was whether corporations can be sued for human rights violations under the law.

“The ABA has long maintained that the [Alien Tort Statute] is an important instrument for providing access to justice to victims of internationally recognized human rights violations who, in many cases, may not otherwise have recourse to compensatory remedies,” the brief says.

Legal rules such as the requirement for personal jurisdiction and the doctrine of forum non conveniens address the concerns presented when courts hear cases arising from events outside the United States, the brief says. Jurisdiction “should be exercised with care,” according to the brief.

A press release has more information. The case is Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.

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