KIOBEL V. ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM (U.S. SUPREME COURT, 2012)

Kiobel involves a group of Nigerians filing a lawsuit in the U.S. against three oil companies, seeking to hold them liable for human rights abuses allegedly committed on their behalf by Nigerian soldiers. It invokes the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows foreigners to bring lawsuits in U.S. federal courts for serious violations of international human rights laws. The issue before the Court was whether the ATS permits actions against defendant organizations and corporations, or whether they were intended to apply only against natural persons. In 2011 ADL joined a coalition brief supporting the position that Congress did not intend to limit the ATS only to actions against natural persons. The Court did not decide Kiobel but rather ordered it be reargued in 2012, and expanded the scope of its review to include whether ATS applied to violations of international law when those occurred on foreign soil. ADL again joined a coalition brief supporting the position that Congress did not intend to limit the ATS only to actions arising in U.S. territories. In its decision, the Court dismissed the complaint in this case, holding that in general ATS cannot be the basis for a lawsuit in the U.S. when all the conduct occurs in a foreign country with a functioning, legitimate government.