The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Court Must Preserve Human Rights Law, Say Lawyers Who Pioneered Its Use


Today, as the Supreme Court opened its term with oral argument in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement:

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been a cornerstone of U.S. human rights litigation for over three decades, providing victims of grave human rights abuses justice that they could not get elsewhere. Now, Kiobel has the potential to profoundly limit, and even completely destroy, that avenue for accountability. If the Court prohibits victims of torture, war crimes, forced labor, and other human rights abuses from using the ATS against corporations, it will send a resounding message: the Court will protect corporate rights, but it will not demand corporate responsibilities. By the same token, if the Court rules that the ATS cannot be used to provide accountability for abuses committed abroad, it will effectively gut the ATS, and the message will be deafening: the U.S. is a safe haven for international human rights violators. Only by unequivocally affirming the use of the ATS against both individuals and corporations, and for violations that occur anywhere in the world, can the Court signal to the world that the United States remains committed to holding human rights violators accountable. Anything else would be a giant step backwards.

CCR filed the landmark 1979 case, Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, of two Paraguayan citizens for the torture and murder of their 17-year-old brother and son by a Paraguayan police inspector, and won a $10 million judgment. Filartiga was the first modern use of the ATS as a human rights tool.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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