USSC Hears Oral Arguments on Case Questioning Scope of ATS
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company. As the National Law Journal describes, the plaintiffs, members of Nigeria’s Ogoni people, claim the defendants (Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, Shell Transport and Trading Company PLC, and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, LTD) violated international law by assisting in the killing, rape, and torture committed by squads dispatched to halt the plaintiffs’ protests against oil company pollution and exploration in the Ogoni region.
The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The ATS states:
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.
One main issue the USSC will address concerns the scope of the ATS and, as the National Law Journal frames it, whether ATS “could be invoked on the basis of facts occurring on a foreign territory.”
Roger Alford commented on the situation in a publication by Opinio Juris stating that, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision on this issue, once this case is decided, the application of ATS in lower courts will be limited in comparison to the way the statute is currently applied.
You can read the full commentary by Roger Alford here.
You can read the full National Law Journal article here.
You can read the oral arguments here.