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Médecins Sans Frontières

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19 April 2014

Kiobel Anniversary Surprise: Judge Scheindlin Rules Corporations May Be Held Liable Under ATS, Despite Second Circuit Precedents [USA]

Author: John Bellinger, Lawfare (USA)

…Judge Scheindlin held, in the long-running Apartheid litigation, that corporations may be sued under the Alien Tort Statute. Her decision directly conflicts…with the Second Circuit’s…decision in Kiobel (holding that corporations are not subject to liability under the ATS) but also with the Second Circuit’s post-Kiobel decision…in the Apartheid case (deciding that the ATS suits against the defendants in the Apartheid case were barred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel)…Judge Scheindlin authorized the plaintiffs to…amend their complaints against Ford and IBM …to provide evidence that the companies’ activities “touch and concern” the territory of the United States…Scheindlin agreed to dismiss the two remaining foreign corporate defendants — Daimler AG and Rheinmetall…Scheindlin finds that by concluding in Kiobel that “mere corporate presence” is not sufficient to overcome the presumption against extraterritoriality, the Supreme Court by necessity implies that “corporate presence plus additional factors can suffice...”...[Refers to Daimler AG, Ford, IBM & Rheinmetall]

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17 April 2014

Ford, IBM to face renewed U.S. lawsuit over apartheid-era abuses

Author: Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

Ford Motor Co and IBM Corp will again have to face a U.S. lawsuit claiming they encouraged race-based human rights abuses in apartheid-era South Africa, despite...recent court decisions limiting...such cases... U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan accepted an argument...that corporations may be held liable under...the Alien Tort Statute (ATS)... "No principle of domestic or international law supports the conclusion that the norms enforceable through the ATS ... apply only to natural persons and not to corporations," Scheindlin wrote... [The] 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...had said [the case] should be dismissed... The plaintiffs contended that by having made military vehicles and computers for South African security forces...[the] companies...had aided and abetted...[the] apartheid government in perpetrating abuses, such as killings and torture. The litigation seeks class action status, with potential damages in the billions of dollars. [Refers to claims against Daimler, Rheinmetall, General Motors that were dismissed; also refers to Kiobel v. Royal Dutch/Shell.]

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4 April 2014

Corporate Accountability for Human Rights Violations in Countries in Transition

Author: Nadia Bernaz (Middlesex University), Rights as Usual

[A]t the 9 Bedford Row International Conference on “Human Rights in Post-Revolution States”... [m]y talk was on “Corporate Accountability for Human Rights Violations in Countries in Transition”. The area of corporate accountability and transitional justice is relatively under explored...I...present[ed] a selection of cases...to highlight the type of issues that are likely to arise when trying to hold corporations, or business people, accountable for human rights violations in countries that have transitioned from conflict to peace, or from authoritarian rule to democracy...Post World War II trials against industrialists and bankers in US zone of occupation in Germany; The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings on business...; The Apartheid cases before US federal courts...; The Van Anraat case in the Netherlands; The ongoing Amesys and Qosmos cases in France...[W]here to draw the line between making profit by doing business with a criminal regime, and being criminally or civilly liable?..[U]nfortunately these cases provide no definite answers.

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