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19 Jan 2005

Jonathan Birchall, Financial Times

The limits of human rights legislation [USA]

Federal Judge John Sprizzo delivered what the US business community wanted to hear late last year when he ruled that international corporations could not be sued in his court over working in apartheid South Africa...But...the business community...suffered something of a set-back a few weeks later. In mid-December, Unocal, the US oil company, announced it had reached a decision in principle to settle Alien Tort litigation over alleged complicity in human rights abuses in Burma...corporate and human rights lobbyists are eyeing each other for signs of attempts by the business community to push for legislation to curtail the scope of the [Alien Tort] statute in the new US Congress..."I think a signal has been sent," says Mr [Owen] Pell [attorney who defended companies in apartheid lawsuit] of last summer's Supreme Court decision. "You companies are capable of knowing right from wrong...if you put yourselves on the side of wrong, then there is some room under this statute for you to get sued..." [also refers to ChevronTexaco, Shell, Talisman]

Part of the following timelines

Chevron lawsuit (re Nigeria)

Talisman lawsuit (re Sudan)

Apartheid reparations lawsuits (re So. Africa)

Unocal lawsuit (re Myanmar)