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Companies Immune From Alien Tort Suits, Court Rules

Author: Bob Van Voris & Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg, Published on: 17 September 2010

Companies, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigerian unit, aren’t subject to U.S. lawsuits by foreigners seeking damages for human rights violations, a federal appeals court in New York ruled. A panel of the court ruled 2-1 today that the Alien Tort Statute gives U.S. courts jurisdiction over alleged violations of international law by individuals only, not by corporations. The decision dismisses claims by a group of Nigerians that Shell aided in the torture and murder of dissidents in Nigeria in the 1990s, including the playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa... Jonathan C. Drimmer, a partner at Steptoe and Johnson...said the case may be reconsidered by the entire appeals court... Circuit Judge Pierre N. Leval wrote a separate opinion in which he agreed that the case should be dismissed but disagreed that the Alien Tort Statute applies only to individuals. “The majority opinion deals a substantial blow to international law and its undertaking to protect fundamental human rights,” he wrote...

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Related companies: Shell