Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

EarthRights International holds a protest and press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court during arguments in the Kiobel v. Shell case on Monday, October 1, 2012 in Washington, DC.

REDRESS joined the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other human rights organisations in an amicus brief filed in the US Supreme Court in the case Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Shell) on 13 June 2012. This was a class action lawsuit against Shell that sought damages and other relief for crimes against humanity, including torture and extrajudicial executions, and other international law violations committed with Shell's assistance and complicity between 1992 and 1995 against the Ogoni people.

The case was brought under the Alien Tort Statute – a piece of legislation which had successfully been used in the past to bring claims against defendants for serious violations of international law committed abroad.  The Supreme Court asked for specific arguments from the parties addressing "[w]hether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute . . . allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States". The amicus brief filed by CCR, REDRESS and others argued that US Courts are appropriate forums for hearing claims over serious human rights abuses committed abroad.

The United States Supreme Court handed down its decision on 17 April 2013, finding against the claimants on the grounds that the case did not a have strong enough connection to the United States. This decision was disappointing from the perspective of victims of human rights violations committed abroad, although it leaves open the possibility that companies and individuals may still be held liable in cases with a stronger connection to the United States. 

Photo credit: Earthrightsintl


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