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17 Oct 2011

Greg Stohr, Bloomberg

Torture Suits Against Companies Draw Supreme Court Review in Immunity Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to use a case involving units of Royal Dutch Shell...to consider whether corporations can be sued under federal laws that protect people in other countries from human rights abuses. The justices today said they will hear an appeal from a group of Nigerians who say two Shell units were complicit in torture and execution in the country’s Ogani region from 1992 to 1995. A federal appeals court threw out the case, saying companies can’t be sued under the two-century-old Alien Tort Statute. The lower court ruling created “a blanket immunity for corporations engaged or complicit in universally condemned human rights violations,” the alleged victims argued in their appeal...A decision in favor of the two [Shell] units...would change the law in much of the country...Shell urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, saying even the third judge on the panel would have rejected the lawsuit, though for different reasons. [also refers to Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Unocal (part of Chevron), Chevron, Ford]