U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Accepts Two Cases Involving Reach of Liability Laws for Overseas Human Rights Abuses


The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted two cases seeking to hold corporations and organizations accountable for overseas human rights violations.

One case considers whether subsidiaries of Royal Dutch Shell can be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute, according to SCOTUSblog, the Associated Press, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). The law allows foreign citizens to sue in U.S. courts for violations of international law.

The plaintiffs are Nigerians who claim the companies worked with the Nigerian military government to clamp down on activists demanding a greater share of oil revenue. Most federal appeals courts have said companies can be sued under the law, Bloomberg says. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Shell in the case, saying the law applies to individuals, but not corporations. The case is Kiobel v. Shell Petroleum.

In the second case, Mohamad v. Rajoub, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Torture Victim Protection Act can be used to hold political organizations accountable for torture. The suit was brought on behalf of a U.S. citizen, Azzam Rahim, who died after alleged torture by Palestinian intelligence officers. The suit names as defendants the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Cert Petition Seeks to Hold Corporations Accountable Under Alien Tort Law”

ABA Journal: “Shell Gets a Pass on Nigerian Claims, But Tort Law’s Future Still Unclear”

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