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US Supreme Court to Weigh Foreigners' Suits vs. Corporations

• Common Dreams staff
The US Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over the reach of the Alien Tort Statute and a 20-year-old law that allows victims of torture to pursue civil lawsuits against the responsible individuals.
 

The rights groups say a 223-year-old law gives foreigners such as Nigerian-born Charles Wiwa the right to try to hold businesses accountable for the roles they play in atrocities. Energy and mining companies have been among the most frequent targets of these lawsuits in recent years following efforts by the military in Indonesia, Nigeria and elsewhere to clamp down on protests against oil and gas exploration and development. [...]

Business interests argue that the legal tactic also will discourage investment in developing countries and they point out that they uniformly condemn human rights violations.

Wiwa, 44, fled Nigeria in 1996 following a crackdown on protests against Shell's oil operations in the Niger Delta. Wiwa and other natives of the oil-rich Ogoni region claim Shell was eager to stop protests in the area and was complicit in Nigerian government actions that included fatal shootings, rapes, beatings, arrests and property destruction.

He said an American court is the only place the Ogonis can seek accountability.

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