WASHINGTON, D.C. Feb. 24, 2012 - As a service for those writing about human rights and corporate accountability cases, Alliance for Justice today released a report detailing the facts and far-reaching implications of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, one of the most important cases of the current Supreme Court term, and one that could have profound ramifications for those seeking to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing.
The issue under consideration in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum is whether the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, which establishes jurisdiction for civil suits by aliens for torts "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States," applies to corporate wrongdoers. In this case, multinational oil companies are alleged to have aided and abetted human rights atrocities committed by the Nigerian military. The Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split after the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that corporations cannot be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute. The D.C., Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits all held the contrary.
As AFJ's report concludes:
The Supreme Court is poised to make a statement on the civil liability of corporations that participate in the commission of atrocities in the pursuit of profit. After its shocking holding in Citizens United that corporations enjoy the same rights as people to spend unlimited money to influence elections, already resulting in a perversion of American democracy, it would be the utmost hypocrisy if the Court now rules that corporations enjoy special privileges when they engage in activities that the international community has condemned as crimes against humanity. If corporations are to have equal rights, at the very least, they must also have equal responsibilities.
When the Court ultimately rules on this case, it will mark only the second time in history that it has addressed the 1789 Alien Tort Statute in any fashion, and the first time that it has addressed the question of corporate liability under the statute.
Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. AFJ works to ensure that the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process. AFJ is based in Washington, D.C. Additional information can be found at www.afj.org.
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