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Corporate Liability for Human Rights Violations: A Preview of Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC
Author: William Dodge, University of California, on Just Security, Published on: 29 September 2017
On October 11, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC on the question whether corporations can be sued for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). This will be the second time the question of corporate liability has come before the Court. In 2011, the Supreme Court granted cert to consider the same question in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., but after oral argument the Court asked for additional briefing on the geographic scope of the ATS cause of action. Ultimately, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the claims in Kiobel on the ground that they did not “touch and concern” the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritoriality. The Court did not reach the question of corporate liability under the ATS, leaving the Second Circuit’s categorical rule against such liability intact...
The arguments in Jesner fall into three groups:
1) whether customary international law permits corporate liability;
2) whether, as a matter of U.S. domestic law, the ATS cause of action should be interpreted to permit corporate liability;
3) whether the case against Arab Bank should be dismissed on some other ground...