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ABA Urges Supreme Court to Affirm Use of Statute for Human Rights Abuses Abroad

CHICAGO, June 15, 2012 – Citing its expertise in promoting international protection of human rights, the _ is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm that the Alien Tort Statute grants jurisdiction to the federal courts to hear civil claims based on violations of established international human rights law when the alleged abuses took place outside the United States.

The ABA expressed its position in an amicus brief filed in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. During oral argument on Feb. 28, the Court raised additional issues concerning the scope of jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute. On March 5, the Court ordered that the case be reargued, adding the question of whether and under what circumstances the statute allows courts to recognize a civil cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring abroad.

“The question presented on reargument raises issues relating to the international rule of law and individual access to justice that have long been core concerns of the ABA,” the brief states. It urges the Court to conclude that, while jurisdiction over these cases should be exercised with care, there should not be a categorical denial of jurisdiction. Rather, the brief states, the courts should be cautioned to continue to consider and apply, as necessary, existing limiting principles, including legal rules and prudential doctrines, on a case-by-case basis. The brief includes an appendix listing how the courts have applied these principles.

The brief cites a 1985 ABA report that said the United States “has long recognized that if international human rights are to be given legal effect, adhering nations must make available domestic remedies and sanctions to address abuses regardless of where they occur.”

The brief is available online here.

With nearly 400,000 members, the _ is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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