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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A blow to human rights: AFJ responds to Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

HEAR IT NOW: AFJ has comprehensive analysis of the decision, with excerpts from audio of the oral arguments on our AFJ Audio Analysis page 

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 17, 2013 – Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement today in response to the Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.

Kiobel plaintiffs on Feb 28, 2012.
Photo via Amnesty International USA
Environmental activists from Nigeria alleged that when they tried to protect their land against exploitation by a giant multi-national oil company, they were beaten, raped, tortured and sometimes killed by the military dictatorship ruling the nation at the time – with the active complicity of the oil company.  The evidence was persuasive enough to prompt the United States to grant these activists asylum.

Yet today, the Supreme Court majority struck a blow to decades of human rights law, providing a safe harbor to human rights abusers around the globe.

A basic premise of the law is that it applies universally; there is no escape from accountability for violating fundamental human rights. Until today, the Supreme Court consistently held for decades that foreign victims of human rights abuses could bring suit in American courts against foreign perpetrators of human rights abuses occurring abroad. The Roberts majority could have decided this case on far more narrow grounds – as the lower court did – but it jumped at the opportunity to place significant limits on our nation’s ability to enforce human rights law.

Our nation prides itself on being a champion of human rights. Yet a majority of our highest court has chosen to make it easier for big corporations complicit in human rights abuses to evade responsibility, and vastly more difficult for their victims to get justice.

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