Alien Tort Human Rights Abuse. Lawyers at our firm with extensive knowledge of the Alien Tort Claims are available to represent foreign nationals who were victims of human rights abuses that occurred overseas. The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), also known as the Alien Tort Statute, has recently become significant as a means of holding government, military, and corporate leaders responsible for the human rights abuses, including torture, committed as a result of their presence in a foreign country. In the right hands, the Alien Torts Statute can be a powerful weapon for those seeking justice for human rights abuses.
If you are seeking assistance bringing an Alien Torts Statute lawsuit, we can help. We offer free legal evaluations to individuals and organizations considering filing suit under the Alien Torts Statute. To find out if the Alien Torts Statute is applicable to your situation, we urge you to contact us today.
Alien Torts Statute Claims
The Alien Torts Claims Act of 1789 provides that the US federal trial 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.” The law was written to address problems like international piracy, violations of safe conducts, and infringement of the rights of ambassadors. For nearly 200 years, it was rarely invoked.
Beginning in the 1980s, several groundbreaking cases expanded the scope of the Alien Torts Statute. The first of these was Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, which gave alien victims of serious violations of international law the right to seek civil damages in a US federal court against foreign officials.
Since then, various other US courts have allowed foreign plaintiffs to bring cases in the US, and many lower courts have assumed that there can be corporate liability under the statute. Suits can be brought against corporations for involvement in human rights violations abroad, so long as the corporation had sufficient contacts with the US, acted together with a government entity or official and had sufficient control over the violations.
A federal court only can adjudicate an action under the Alien Torts Statute if it is brought by a non-US citizen for a tort that was committed in violation of the laws of nations or a treaty ratified by the United States.
The types of human rights abuses that may be subject to an Alien Torts Statute action include:
- Extrajudicial Killing
- Forced Disappearance
- Crimes Against Humanity
- Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
- Prolonged Arbitrary Detention
- War Crimes
- State-Sponsored Sexual Violence & Rape
In recent years, foreign citizens have increasingly targeted US companies in lawsuits which claim that the company acted in concert with foreign governments, or rogue elements within a foreign country, to commit torture, rape, murder, genocide or a host of other human rights violations. Several Fortune 500 companies in a wide range of industries have faced Alien Torts Statute lawsuits. US companies have paid significant settlements in such cases, and judgments have been entered against non-US citizens as high as almost $2 billion.
Why File An Alien Torts Statute Lawsuit?
When human rights violations occur overseas, they can be difficult to prosecute. The victims may face reprisal in their home nations and if they flee, returning home could be dangerous. An individual country may not have laws against activities like torture or may fail to take the case seriously. The Alien Torts Statute is one of the few legal avenues available to victims of human rights abuses who want to obtain some type of justice.
Alien Torts Statute lawsuits are not criminal prosecutions, but civil actions that can result in monetary damages being awarded to plaintiffs. However, money is rarely the reason victims of human rights abuses bring claims under the Alien Torts Statute. Instead, they are seeking to have a voice, put end to the culture of impunity that exists in their home country, and expose the defendants’ despicable conduct to the light of day.