For Immediate Release
Valentina Stackl, 1 (202) 466 5188 x100, firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Government Opposes “Absolute” Immunity for World Bank Group in Brief to SCOTUS
WASHINGTON - Late yesterday, the U.S. Government urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision holding that international organizations like the World Bank Group are entitled to “absolute immunity” from lawsuits in U.S. Courts – an immunity far greater than any other person or entity receives under U.S. law. Instead, the Government’s brief argues, such organizations should only be entitled to the same “restrictive” immunity that foreign governments have, and like foreign governments, should be subject to suit for injuries arising out of their commercial activities.
The brief supports the Plaintiffs in Jam v. International Finance Corporation (IFC), who with EarthRights International (ERI) filed suit against the IFC, the World Bank’s private lending arm, for its role in funding a destructive power plant project in Gujarat, India that has devastated their community and the local environment. The IFC has not denied that the harms have occurred, instead it has simply argued that it is immune and cannot be held liable, no matter how illegal its conduct, and no matter how much harm it causes. The Plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari and earlier this year the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, marking the first time it will consider international organization immunity. The Court is expected to hear oral arguments later this year.
“We are pleased the Government has weighed in against absolute immunity,” said Rick Herz of EarthRights International, one of the attorneys who represents the Plaintiffs in the case. “We are optimistic the Court will use this opportunity to clarify that the law must be read to mean what it says: international organizations are entitled only to the same immunity as foreign governments.”
The brief from advocacy organizations refutes the IFC’s suggestion that restrictive immunity would “open the floodgates,” and argues that allowing suit in cases like this one, where even the IFC’s own ombudsman has condemned the IFC’s conduct, would increase the accountability of these institutions and help restore the IFC’s credibility as a poverty-fighting institution, which has already been damaged by the public perception that it “consider[s] itself to be above the law.”
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EarthRights International (ERI) is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment, which we define as "earth rights." We specialize in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns. Through these strategies, EarthRights International seeks to end earth rights abuses, to provide real solutions for real people, and to promote and protect human rights and the environment in the communities where we work.