Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On Supreme Court Decision Limiting American Judicial Recourse For International Human Rights Violations

[Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued the following statement Thursday regarding a Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.  A majority of the Court ruled that the Alien Tort Statute, a law enacted in 1789, does not apply to human rights violations committed in other countries.  Specifically, the Court ruled that Nigerian citizens could not use American courts to sue a multinational oil company alleged to have aided the military dictatorship that violated their human rights after those citizens protested the environmental damage caused by the oil operations.  In doing so, the Justices significantly circumscribed the scope of the legislation which has become an important avenue to hold serious human rights violators accountable.]


“I was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.  By dramatically limiting the scope of the Alien Tort Statute, and overlooking the clear history and purpose of the law, the Court undermined the status of the United States as a leader on human rights.  This centuries-old law has become a critical tool in holding human rights violators accountable.  It has provided recourse for those victims who cannot seek justice in their own country because of a weak or corrupt judicial system.  I look forward to examining what steps this Congress might take to restore the effectiveness of this important law.”

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