USA: The current state of Alien Tort litigation in the business & human rights context
"The Global Lawyer: The 'Zombie' Alien Tort, Three Years After Kiobel", 12 May 2016
When the U.S. Supreme Court restricted the reach of the Alien Tort Statute in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, I wrote that it had created a "zombie doctrine,” leaving the corporate alien tort not quite alive and not quite dead. Three years later, the zombie is looking rather spry. On Thursday the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in an alien tort case accusing a military contractor of torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. The case…was dismissed…on political question grounds after the Fourth Circuit had refused to dismiss it under Kiobel. Two weeks ago…, a different judge declined to dismiss the case against the psychologists who designed the "black site" interrogation program on either Kiobel or political question grounds…The Supreme Court has passed on the chance to revisit Kiobel at least twice…Most alien tort cases will continue to be blocked by defenses like justiciability or forum non conveniens…Prudent plaintiffs lawyers will develop strategies under state law, or under acts designed to combat terror, torture, or human trafficking. I stand by my point that the Alien Tort Statute requires sympathetic interpretation.