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27 Feb 2012

David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court to weigh torture lawsuits against corporations

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Two years ago, the Supreme Court said corporations…had the same free-speech rights to spend unlimited sums on campaigns ads. Now,…the justices will decide whether corporations are like people when they are sued for aiding foreign regimes that kill or torture their own people…[T]he justices will hear an appeal of a suit accusing Royal Dutch Petroleum…of aiding a former Nigerian regime whose military police tortured, raped and executed minority residents in the oil-rich delta…[The suit relies] on the Alien Tort Statute…"It would send a very bad message if we give corporations a blanket immunity if they engage in universally condemned human rights abuse," said Jennifer Green, a University of Minnesota law professor. On the other side are not just American corporations but also the governments of Britain, the Netherlands and Australia. They say international law does not call for liability against companies, and U.S. courts have no business deciding cases involving foreign companies operating in foreign lands.