Multinational Corporations and Human Rights — The Alien Tort Statute No Longer Applies.

Alien Tort Statute

     Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch (2013)  declared that the general presumption against extraterritoriality of U.S. legislation was not overcome (and thus upheld the presumption of territoriality of U.S. legislation unless Congress says otherwise).  The Supreme Court held that the 1789 Alien Tort Statute does not apply to a foreign multinational corporation for its  human rights violations in another country involving foreign plaintiffs. This is a major win for multinational corporations and a significant loss for human rights groups. This decision reversed a thirty-year interpretation of the legislation. Predictably the New York Times editors were dismayed and the Wall Street Journal editors were joyous.  “S.Ct. Restricts Alien Tort Statute.” New York Times (April 18, 2013); “Wall Street Journal — Editorial — Alien Tort Statute.Wall Street Journal (April 18, 2013); “New York Times — Editorial — Alien Tort Statute.” New York Times (April 18, 2013).

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About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (School of Public Policy).
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