Friday, 19 April 2013

USA: Supreme Court gives judgment in Kiobel

The Supreme Court gave judgment earlier this week in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. A copy of the judgment is available here (pdf). Judgment was keenly awaited because of the potential impact of the decision on the accountability and liability of multinationals. The case was brought by a group of Nigerian nationals living in the United States against certain Dutch, British, and Nigerian companies. The petitioners sued under the Alien Tort Statute 28 U. S. C. §1350, arguing that the companies had aided and abetted the Nigerian Government in committing violations of the law of nations in Nigeria. The petitioners did not succeed, the court holding that the presumption against extraterritoriality applied to claims under the Alien Tort Statute. Amongst other things, Chief Justice Roberts stated:
...all the relevant conduct took place outside the United States. And even where the claims touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application. ... Corporations are often present in many countries, and it would reach too far to say that mere corporate presence suffices. If Congress were to determine otherwise, a statute more specific than the ATS would be required."

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