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The U.S. Can't Be the World's Court - New York isn't the right venue to sue for apartheid abuses.
Author: [opinion] John R. Bellinger III, partner at Arnold & Porter law firm; former Legal Adviser, US State Department, in Wall Street Journal, Published on: 26 May 2009
A federal judge in New York recently allowed a lawsuit to proceed against General Motors, Ford and IBM for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by the apartheid government in South Africa. And a lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell for alleged human-rights abuses in Nigeria is scheduled to begin today in Manhattan. We may be on the verge of a new wave of legal actions against U.S. and foreign corporations in American courts... these lawsuits, which are being brought under the 200-year-old Alien Tort Statute, are likely to cause friction between foreign governments and the Obama administration. Congress should step in and clarify the types of human-rights cases that may be heard... Litigation under the Alien Tort Statute may force companies to modify their international activities in some cases, although it rarely produces monetary awards for plaintiffs. But it does give rise to diplomatic friction in U.S. relations with foreign governments... Human-rights and labor groups are likely to press the Obama administration to support litigation under the Alien Tort Statute and even to reverse the Bush administration's opposition to the apartheid case. [also refers to lawsuits against Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Yahoo, ExxonMobil, Unocal (now part of Chevron), Talisman Energy, Rio Tinto]