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Applying American Law to Far-Off Crimes

The Obama administration recently took a troubling stance against victims of human rights abuses in a brief filed with the Supreme Court. The administration asked the Supreme Court to place strict limits on the reach of the Alien Tort Statute, an important law allowing people to file civil suits in American courts for violations of international law, including human rights abuses such as torture and crimes against humanity...The case in question, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, involves a group of Nigerians accusing oil giant Shell of complicity in torture and executions...The implications, though, are unsettling. Had the Obama administration’s position been law during the Clinton administration, it might have prevented millions of Holocaust survivors from receiving compensation from companies that reaped benefits because of their suffering...The impact of the Kiobel case will, of course, reach far beyond Nigeria and Germany.