The Alien Tort Statute and Transnational Accountability in the Age of "Kiobel"


On November 14th, 2013, the CCR and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute hosted an important CLE program on Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The program focused on the use of the ATS as a tool for seeking accountability for serious human rights violations, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Participants received grounding in the ATS, domestic accountability mechanisms, and the interplay between the ATS and foreign courts.
To view the panels, please click the following links below:
More information on the conference below:
Conference Agenda
9:00 A.M. – 9:10 A.M. WELCOME
Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
9:10 A.M. – 9:30 A.M. OPENING REMARKS
Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights; Faculty Director, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School
* NYS CLE Credit: 1.0, Areas of Professional Practice
This session will provide an introduction to the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and situate it in global movements and efforts for accountability for serious human rights violations, from Filartiga through Kiobel and beyond. It will review the different requirements of the ATS, regarding scope of violations, territorial reach or party-specific limitations, and current issues at play in ATS litigation.
Featured speakers:
Ralph Steinhardt, Professor of Law and International Affairs, Arthur Selwyn Miller Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
Pam Spees, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Moderator: Baher Azmy, Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
10:20 A.M. – 10:30 A.M. BREAK
*NYS CLE Credit: 1.5, Areas of Professional Practice
This session will survey various domestic mechanisms and frameworks to pursue accountability within the U.S. legal system for human rights violations by individuals and corporations, and examine how the ATS complements or supplements other avenues for redress.
Featured speakers:
Agnieszka Fryszman, Partner, Cohen Milstein
Terrence Collingsworth, Partner, Conrad & Scherer
Marco Simons, Legal Director, EarthRights International
Moderator: Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
11:45 A.M. – 1:15 P.M. LUNCH/KEYNOTE
Paul Hoffman, Partner, Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP
Peter Weiss, Board Vice President, Center for Constitutional Rights
Moderator: Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights; Faculty Diretor, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School
*NYS CLE Credit: 1.5 Areas of Professional Practice
This session will examine specific cases in foreign courts where domestic tort and criminal law are being used to hold individuals and corporations accountable for their role in egregious human rights violations, and discuss how litigation under the ATS has impacted and influenced litigation in foreign courts. This session will also examine how accountability, like violations, is being pursued transnationally, including under the ATS.
Featured speakers:
Richard Meeran, Partner, Leigh Day
Scott Gilmore, Staff Attorney, Center for Justice & Accountability
Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Moderator: Anthea Roberts, Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
2:30 - 2:45 P.M. CLOSING REMARKS
Paul Hoffman, Partner, Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP
Speaker Bios:
Baher Azmy is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Mr. Azmy has pursued constitutional and human rights litigation challenging policies emerging from the so-called “war on terror,” including policies related to indefinite executive detention, extraordinary rendition, and torture. Prior to his arrival at CCR, Mr. Azmy was a law professor at Seton Hall University, where he directed the Civil Rights and Constitutional Litigation Clinic and taught Constitutional Law.
Sarah Cleveland is the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and Faculty Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School. Professor Cleveland is a noted expert in international human and labor rights, the constitutional law of U.S. foreign relations, international law in domestic law and the interface between human rights and international trade. From 2009-2011, she served as the counselor on international law to the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State, where she supervised the office’s legal work relating to the law of war, counterterrorism, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and assisted with its international human rights and international justice work. As an expert on the Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project Working Group, she helped draft a labor code for post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2003. Cleveland serves on the legal advisory boards of a number of human rights organizations and on the board of editors of the Journal of International Economic Law. She is a co-author of Louis Henkin’s Human Rights casebook (2nd ed., forthcoming 2009). Cleveland holds a J.D. from Yale Law School. She clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun and for Judge Louis Oberdorfer on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Prior to entering law teaching, she worked as a Skadden Fellow with Florida Legal Services, where she conducted impact litigation on behalf of migrant farm workers. She joined Columbia Law School in 2007.
Terrence Collingsworth, managing partner of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, joined Conrad & Scherer in 2008. A dedicated labor and human rights attorney, he specializes in litigating cases that seek to hold multinational firms accountable for human rights violations in their global operations. Prior to joining Conrad & Scherer, Mr. Collingsworth was executive director of the International Rights Advocates (IRA), the successor organization to the litigation department of the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), where he was general counsel and executive director. He has pending human rights cases brought under the ATS against major multinational firms including Del Monte, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Dyncorp, Wal-Mart, Bridgestone-Firestone and Chiquita Brands International, as well as DaimlerChrysler AG v Bauman, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Agnieszka Fryszman, a Partner at Cohen Milstein, joined the Firm in 1998. She heads Cohen Milstein’s International Human Rights and Pro Bono practice. Ms. Fryszman regularly litigates complex cases against corporations, including against military contractors KBR and Daoud & Partners, filing one of the first complaints under the recently passed Trafficking Victims Protection Act. She was a member of the legal team that successfully represented survivors of Nazi-era forced and slave labor against the German and Austrian companies that allegedly profited from their labor. Ms. Fryszman and colleague Matthew Handley earned the National Law Journal’s 2011 Pro Bono Award for their efforts on behalf of Nepali laborers injured or killed at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Katherine Gallagher is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), where she focuses on holding individuals, including US and foreign government officials, and corporations, including private military contractors, accountable for serious human rights violations. Among the cases she has worked, or is working, on are international accountability efforts for U.S. officials involved in torture (Spain, Switzerland, Canada); ICC Vatican Officials Prosecution; Arar v. Ashcroft, Corrie v. Caterpillar, Al Shimari v Titan, Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla and L-3, Estate of Atban v. Blackwater. Prior to joining CCR, she worked at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from 2001-2006.
Scott Gilmore is Staff Attorney with the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA). Before law school, he worked on communications and policy analysis for CJA. Mr. Gilmore summered with the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, as a law clerk in the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP). At HRSP, he worked on the extraterritorial prosecution of human rights abuses and complex transnational crimes. He interned for the Hon. Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law; and the ABA Center for Human Rights. He was also a musician in the Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Black Ox Orkestar, and a writer and performer in Le Petit Théâtre de l'Absolu, a Franco-American theater company performing original work on armed conflict and historical memory. He holds a B.A. in English and Jewish studies from McGill University and speaks fluent French. Mr. Gilmore is a graduate of George Washington University Law School (J.D., Order of the Coif). and is admitted to practice in California.
Paul Hoffman is a partner in the law firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman LLP in Venice, California. He has been at the forefront of ATS litigation for the last 30 years and argued Sosa v Alvarez-Machain and Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Richard Meeran joined Leigh Day in 1990 to work on the firm’s pioneering case against the Sellafield nuclear plant and was made partner in 1991. He was instrumental in developing the firm’s ethos to make multinational corporations accountable for their exploitation of workers. Richard pioneered claims against UK based multinationals, Cape PLC for 7,500 South African asbestos and Thor Chemicals for South African workers poisoned by mercury. He represented 31 Peruvian torture victims in case against Monterrico Metals plc, which was settled (without admission of liability) in July 2011. The obtaining of a worldwide freezing injunction for the claimants broke new ground, Tabra & Others v Monterrico Metals Plc [2009] EWHC 2475; [2010] EWHC 3228. Mr. Meeran is also currently representing 12 Tanzanian villagers in a claim against African Barrick Gold in the UK. Mr. Meeran was the winner of the Liberty/Justice “Human Rights Lawyer of the Year” award (2002).
Maria LaHood is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), where she specializes in international human rights litigation, seeking to hold government officials and corporations accountable for torture, extrajudicial killings, and war crimes abroad. Ms. LaHood has worked on cases against United States officials, Arar v. Ashcroft, Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, and Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta; against foreign government officials, Matar v. Dichter and Belhas v. Ya’alon; and against corporations, Wiwa v. Royal Dutch/Shell and Corrie v. Caterpillar. Ms. LaHood graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1995 and advocated on behalf of affordable housing and civil rights in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to joining CCR in 2003.
Anthea Roberts holds a joint appointment as a Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and a Senior Lecturer in Law at the London School of Economics and will be in residence at Columbia Law School from 2013-2015. Professor Roberts joined the London School of Economics in 2008 and has been a Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School. Her fields of expertise are public international law, investment treaty law and arbitration, and comparative international law. Professor Roberts has published in the American Journal of International Law, the European Journal of International Law, the Harvard International Law Journal, the International & Comparative Law Quarterly, and the Yale Journal of International Law. In 2002 and 2011, she was awarded the Francis Deak Prize by the American Society of International Law for the best contribution to the American Journal of International Law by a scholar under 40 years of age. In 2012, Professor Roberts was awarded a Leverhulme Prize in recognition of her scholarly contribution to her field.
Marco Simons is the Legal Director of EarthRights International (ERI), where he directs the organization's legal work to work with communities to protect human rights and the environment in the Mekong region, the Amazon, in Myanmar, and around the world. With ERI, Mr. Simons has served as counsel on transnational corporate accountability cases including Doe v. Unocal, Wiwa v. Shell, Bowoto v. Chevron, and Maynas Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum, submitted amicus briefs in numerous other cases, and has written or coauthored several articles and publications on corporate accountability for abuses as well as teaching college and law school courses on human rights. Mr. Simons previously worked for ERI on the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights after graduating from Yale Law School. Prior to returning to ERI, he clerked for the Honorable Dorothy Wright Nelson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked for the civil rights law firm Hadsell & Stormer, which was co-counsel on Doe v. Unocal and Bowoto v. Chevron. Mr. Simons holds an undergraduate degree in environmental science and, prior to law school, worked on developing educational materials on conservation biology. He is currently admitted to practice in California, Washington, D.C., and Washington State, as well as in the U.S. Supreme Court and several other federal courts.
Pam Spees is a senior staff attorney in the international human rights program at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She has a background in international criminal and human rights law with a gender focus, as well as criminal trial practice. She serves as lead counsel on Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively (against a U.S. based anti-gay extremist for his role in the persecution of LGBTI people in Uganda); Murillo v. Micheletti (brought by the parents of a youth killed by the coup regime in Honduras); and in the legal effort to hold Vatican officials criminally responsible for the crimes against humanity of rape and sexual violence within the church.
Ralph Steinhardt is the Professor of Law and International Affairs and Arthur Selwyn Miller Research Professor of Law at George Washington School of Law. Professor Steinhardt specializes in international law, human rights, conflicts of laws, international civil litigation, and international business transactions. He has submitted amicus briefs in many cases brought under the ATS, including Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.
Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Mr. Warren oversees CCR's groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender and LGBT injustice; and combating the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo, rendition and torture. Prior to his tenure at CCR, Mr. Warren was a national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where he litigated civil rights cases, focusing on affirmative action, racial profiling and criminal justice reform. Prior to the ACLU, Mr. Warren monitored South Africa's historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and worked as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn.
Peter Weiss is Vice President of the Board at the Center for Constitutional Rights. He was co-lead counsel on the groundbreaking ATS case, Filartiga v Pena-Irala, and has been involved in numerous ATS cases over the last three decades as well as cases in foreign courts brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Last modified 

March 20, 2014