Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The End of the Filartiga Era

Today the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Alien Tort Statute, effectively ending a brief period in the history of American jurisprudence (a mere quarter of a century dating back to the Filartiga case) during which victims of human rights abuse who had no hope of securing justice in their homelands could seek justice in U.S. courts. In the case before the Supreme Court, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, all nine justices agreed that a lawsuit against a multinational oil company for its complicity in the deaths of Nigerian environmental activists should be thrown out. An opinion joined by five of the justices objected to the extraterritorial reach of the ATS in cases like Kiobel, the very feature that has made it an important tool for the promotion of international human rights law.

For more on the ruling, see the New York Times story here, an editorial from the same paper here, and the learned counsel of several experts participating in an "insta-symposium" over at Opinio Juris.

Lawyers representing Big Oil are no doubt celebrating tonight.