Court Must Preserve Human Rights Law, Say Lawyers Who Pioneered Its Use

October 1, 2012, Washington D.C. – Today, as the Supreme Court opened its term with oral argument in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement:

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been a cornerstone of U.S. human rights litigation for over three decades, providing victims of grave human rights abuses justice that they could not get elsewhere. Now, Kiobel has the potential to profoundly limit, and even completely destroy, that avenue for accountability. If the Court prohibits victims of torture, war crimes, forced labor, and other human rights abuses from using the ATS against corporations, it will send a resounding message: the Court will protect corporate rights, but it will not demand corporate responsibilities. By the same token, if the Court rules that the ATS cannot be used to provide accountability for abuses committed abroad, it will effectively gut the ATS, and the message will be deafening: the U.S. is a safe haven for international human rights violators. Only by unequivocally affirming the use of the ATS against both individuals and corporations, and for violations that occur anywhere in the world, can the Court signal to the world that the United States remains committed to holding human rights violators accountable. Anything else would be a giant step backwards.
CCR filed the landmark 1979 case, Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, of two Paraguayan citizens for the torture and murder of their 17-year-old brother and son by a Paraguayan police inspector, and won a $10 million judgment. Filártiga was the first modern use of the ATS as a human rights tool. 

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

October 1, 2012