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24 Feb 2012

Peter Weiss, Center for Constitutional Rights in New York Times

Should Corporations Have More Leeway to Kill Than People Do?

Next week, the Supreme Court…will be asked to decide whether the corporations to which they have been extending the rights of individuals should also be held accountable for crimes against human rights, just as individuals are…[I]n September 2010, a divided Second Circuit…held that only individuals, and not corporations, can be sued under the [Alien Tort Statute]. That ruling, in a case known as Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, came less than a year after…[the] Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which…wildly expanded the concept of corporate personhood…A decision affirming that Shell should go unpunished…would leave us with a Supreme Court that seems of two minds: in the words of Justice…Stevens’s dissent from Citizens United, it threatens “to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation” by treating corporations as people to let them make unlimited political contributions, even as it treats corporations as if they are not people to immunize them from prosecution for the most grievous human rights violations. A more startling paradox is difficult to imagine.