The Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in Jesner v. Arab Bank in defense of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) as a critical legal tool to hold corporations accountable for egregious human rights violations. The Court will decide Jesner under the question of whether the ATS “categorically forecloses corporate liability for human rights abuses.” Adopted as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Alien Tort Statute has been part of U.S. law for more than 225 years and allows non-U.S. citizens to sue for violations of the “law of nations,” customary international law, or of a treaty of the U.S., in U.S. courts when their cases “touch and concern” the U.S. It has been used to bring claims for human rights violations against government officials, private actors, and multinational corporations for nearly 40 years. CCR and FIDH made the following statement:
The Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights submit that the unequivocal answer to the question of whether corporations may be held accountable for human rights abuses under the Alien Tort Statute is yes, after establishing that corporate liability for serious human rights violations is a general principle of law. But we also express concern that the framing of the case, in which plaintiffs seek to hold the bank liable for their alleged complicity in financing terrorism, risks limiting the application of the ATS to cases with sounding in “terrorism” or “national security,” preferencing the United States’ interest in combating terrorism rather than maintaining it as a broad, essential legal tool for defending human rights. Such a finding also risks applying the ATS only in cases where victims’ claims reflect the political views of U.S. government. The Court should not allow the ATS to be coopted in this way.
Jesner is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to affirm to the lower courts that the ATS must be applied in a way consistent with international human rights law, including the principles of nondiscrimination, to ensure accountability and redress for human rights violations perpetrated by all – government actors, corporations, or individuals. To do otherwise would undermine the effectiveness of the ATS as a human rights tool by either eliminating protection under the ATS for people who suffer human rights violations by corporations, or by preferencing remediation of terrorism-related harms to the exclusion of other human rights abuses. Neither approach aligns with the foundation of the Alien Tort Statute, or international human rights law.
Read the full amicus curiae below.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.