Intl. Finance Corp. lawsuit (re financing of coal-fired plant in India)

Tata power. Credit: Earth Rights InternationalIn November 2015, Indian fishermen and farmers filed a lawsuit against the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in US federal court over environmental damage from the Tata Mundra plant in Gujarat, India, a power plant that the IFC financed.  In March 2016, a judge ruled that the IFC could not be sued in this case. 

In August 2016, affected communities and farmers filed an appeal arguing that, under recent US Supreme Court decisions, the IFC is not entitled to absolute immunity and should be subject to suit for damage caused by the power plant.  On 23 June 2017, a US court of appeals ruled that the IFC is entitled to “absolute immunity” and cannot be sued by the communities harmed by IFC projects.  In July 2017, the affected communities asked a court to review the "absolute immunity" doctrine. On 26 September 2017, a US Court of Appeals ruled that it would not reconsider the immunity rule. On 22 January 2018, the plaintiffs appealed to the US Supreme Court. On 21 May 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, thereby accepting to consider the question of whether or not international organizations such as the World Bank are immune from being sued. On 31 July 2018, the US Government, as well as nine NGOs and experts, filed amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs, arguing that international organizations like the World Bank Group should be subject to lawsuits for damages arising out of their commercial activities.

 

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Article
16 August 2018

NGOs and experts file brief opposing immunity of international organisations in case over damage from plant financed by Intl. Finance Corp. in India

Author: CIEL

"Experts Call on Supreme Court to Reverse Decision Protecting IFC's Absolute Immunity", 2 August 2018

On Tuesday, nine NGOs and experts filed an amicus brief before the US Supreme Court in support of the Indian fishing communities and farmers who are challenging the International Finance Corporation (IFC)'s claim to absolute immunity in Jam v. IFC. The amici call for the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court's decision, arguing that the decision to uphold the IFC's immunity undermines its mission and its accountability system...In support of the communities, NGOs and experts stress that absolute immunity not only infringes on the right to remedy, it also undermines the IFC's ability to carry out its own objectives. Providing redress to communities harmed by IFC projects is critical to the mission of the IFC to reduce poverty and support development that does not harm the people or environment. The IFC claims losing immunity will hurt its business; however, the amici argue that limiting immunity will actually help...The US Government, a group of bipartisan members of Congress, and international law professors have also filed amicus briefs supporting the reversal of the lower court's decision.

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Article
8 August 2018

US Govt. opposes immunity of intl. orgs. from lawsuits in support of case over damage from power plant financed by Intl. Finance Corp. in India

Author: EarthRights Intl.

"U.S. Government Opposes “Absolute” Immunity for World Bank Group in Brief to SCOTUS", 1 Aug 2018

...[T]he U.S. Government urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision holding that international organizations like the World Bank Group are entitled to “absolute immunity” from lawsuits in U.S. Courts...[T]he Government’s brief argues...that such organizations...should be subject to suit for injuries arising out of their commercial activities.  The brief supports the Plaintiffs in Jam v. International Finance Corporation (IFC), who with EarthRights International (ERI) filed suit against the IFC...for its role in funding a destructive power plant project in Gujarat, India that has devastated their community and the local environment.  The IFC has not denied that the harms have occurred, instead it has simply argued that it is immune and cannot be held liable...

The Plaintiffs, filed their opening brief last week explaining why the D.C. Circuit’s holding is wrong and the IFC is not immune from suits for commercial activity.  The US Government’s...adds substantial weight to that argument...A number of other amicus curiae...briefs were also filed this week, including briefs by a bipartisan group of a Members of Congress, International Law Scholars, and environmental, human rights, and development-focused advocacy organizations that have experience working with the IFC, all arguing that the D.C. Circuit’s absolute immunity holding is wrong and should be reversed...

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Article
8 August 2018

US Govt.'s full amicus curiae brief

Author: US Department of Justice

The IOIA provides that international organizations “enjoy the same immunity from suit...as is enjoyed by foreign governments.” 22 U.S.C. 288a(b). The text, structure, and history of the Act, as well as Executive Branch practice and related congressional enactments, all confirm that the jurisdictional immunity afforded by the Act is the jurisdictional immunity currently enjoyed by foreign states and as it might be modified over time, not as it existed when the Act was enacted in 1945. The court of appeals’ contrary determination is incorrect, would present practical difficulties for federal courts, and is not justified by the policy concerns that respondents invoke.

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Article
7 August 2018

Amicus briefs by Members of Congress & NGOs

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Article
7 August 2018

Petitioners' brief

Author: EarthRights Intl., Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

The D.C. Circuit is incorrect that the [International Organizations Immunities Act] IOIA gives international organizations absolute immunity from suit. Rather, by its plain terms, the IOIA tracks the rules established in the FSIA...The IOIA’s “same immunity” provision does not place international organizations uniquely beyond the reach of the law. Instead, it incorporates the current law of foreign sovereign immunity, which is governed by the FSIA...

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Article
21 May 2018

Seeking Justice: US Supreme Court Will Hear Case on World Bank Group’s “Absolute Immunity”

Author: Carly Dooley, Marie Mekosh, Center for International Environmental Law

When a project funded by the World Bank and other development banks harms local communities, where can they turn to?...[I]n the US, these organizations have absolute legal immunity, meaning that they can’t be sued even in cases of explicitly illegal behavior...[F]or the first time, the US Supreme Court will address international organizations’ immunity from harmful or illegal conduct.  This case could pave the way for communities around the world to finally achieve meaningful relief from the damage international institutions leave behind...Indian fishing communities and farmers are challenging the IFC, a branch of the World Bank, for its role in the controversial Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant...In 2008, the IFC provided India with $450 million in loans to construct the Tata Mundra Power Plant...When the IFC’s own independent accountability mechanism (the CAO) investigated the project, it...denounced the bank’s failure to ensure that the project wouldn’t harm those it was ultimately meant to help...[T]he IFC largely rejected the CAO’s findings and failed to implement any plans that would remedy the harms to the communities...Continuing to grant “absolute immunity” disregards the effects of World Bank Group projects and actions on local communities, the very people projects are supposed to benefit...The IFC’s rigid adherence to this immunity only raises questions about whether they are truly evaluating projects in line with their stated goal of “helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.”  We hope that the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case points not only to a recognition of the communities devastated by one power plant in India, but to all the communities impacted by development projects around the world...

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Article
21 May 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Landmark Case Challenging World Bank Group Immunity

Author: EarthRights International

...[T]he U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear a landmark lawsuit challenging the immunity of powerful institutions like the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group...International organizations like the IFC have long claimed they are entitled to “absolute” immunity from suit...The case brought by Indian fishing communities and farmers represented by EarthRights International (ERI) and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Jam v. IFC, challenges that claim.  The Supreme Court’s decision to hear their case means it will consider international organization immunity for the first time, and decide whether international organizations can be held accountable for their harmful conduct...Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that IFC had “absolute immunity” and could not be sued for its role in the controversial Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant that has devastated communities in Gujarat, India...The Plaintiffs are pleased the Supreme Court will hear their case and optimistic that it will fix this erroneous decision...From the start, the IFC recognized that the Tata Mundra plant was a high-risk project that could have “significant” and “irreversible” adverse impacts on local communities and their environment.  Despite knowing the risks, the IFC provided a critical $450 million loan, enabling the project’s construction and giving the IFC immense influence over project design and operation...

 

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Article
22 January 2018

Indian Fishing Community Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging World Bank Group Immunity

Author: EarthRights International

Indian fishing communities and farmers represented by EarthRights International (ERI) and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court this week to hear their case. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in their case that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group, had “absolute immunity” and could not be sued for its role in the controversial Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant that has devastated communities in Gujarat, India. Now, the Plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to rectify this erroneous decision.

 

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Article
28 September 2017

Indian fishermen vow to keep fighting 'devastating' World Bank project

Author: Rina Chandran, Reuters

Farmers and fishermen who sued an arm of the World Bank - for funding an Indian power plant they say hurts their livelihoods - have vowed to appeal a U.S. court ruling that the institution has “absolute immunity”…

The 4,000 megawatt plant has had a “devastating and irreversible impact” on the coastal ecosystem, reducing fish stocks and destroying livelihoods, according to the communities…

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, while noting the damage caused, said it would not reconsider the immunity rule that shields the World Bank group from being sued in the United States.

The communities said they will appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court…

A spokesman for Tata Power said on Thursday that its subsidiary “is in complete compliance with necessary ecological and social parameters of the Indian central and state government, as well as lenders’ performance standards”…  

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Article
27 September 2017

Indian Fishing Communities Will Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Against World Bank Group Challenging “Absolute Immunity”

Author: EarthRights International

Indian fishing communities and farmers represented by EarthRights International (ERI) said today that they will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision finding the World Bank Group is entitled to “absolute immunity” from suits in U.S. courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled yesterday that it would not reconsider its immunity rule, despite the fact that one judge has stated that this rule is “wrong.” The D.C. Circuit left standing a decision that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group, could not be sued for its role in the controversial Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant that has devastated communities in Gujarat, India…

“The court’s decision tells the world that the doors of justice are not open to the poor and marginalized when it comes to powerful institutions like IFC,” said Gajendrasinh Jadeja, the head of Navinal Panchayat, a local village involved in the case. “But no one should be above the law.”…

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