NFTC and USA*Engage Urge Supreme Court to Take on Alien Tort Case

Monday, 6 October 2003

"The U.S. Supreme Court has a responsibility to hear this case and provide a clear judgment on the use of the Alien Tort Statute, which has been misused in a growing number of cases against multinational corporations that do business around the world. This is becoming a major problem not only to U.S. companies, but to the U.S. judicial system itself," said Bill Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council and Co-Chairman of USA*Engage. "Although this case does not directly involve a business interest, we believe its outcome will affect U.S. companies, which should not be held legally accountable for the behavior of foreign governments over which they have no control - to do so abuses the American legal system and discourages U.S. foreign direct investment in developing countries."

The amicus brief was filed collaboratively on behalf of the National Foreign Trade Council, USA*Engage, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the United States Council for International Business in the case Jose Francisco Sosa v. Humberto Alvarez-Machain, et al. In the brief the organizations state:

"Amici curiae and their members have a vital interest in the issues raised by petitioner. Over the past decade, scores of U.S. and multinational companies have been sued under the ATS [Alien Tort Statute] relating to their operations outside the United States. While some companies are alleged to have committed violations of the law of nations directly, more often plaintiffs have alleged that companies' overseas investments have aided and abetted or otherwise facilitated human rights abuses by foreign governments. Not only do these lawsuits strain relations between the United States and the foreign governments who are the indirect targets of the litigation, they discourage foreign investment by U.S. companies."

"As noted in the briefs filed by petitioner and the United States in this case, the willingness of some courts to read a private cause of action into the ATS and to define expansively actionable violations of the law of nations raises significant foreign policy concerns. This is true for cases involving parties as well as governments."

The brief asserts that the Supreme Court should take the opportunity presented by this case to declare once and for all that the ATS does not provide a private cause of action, stating that "the willingness of some courts to read a private cause of action into the ATS and to define expansively actionable violations of the law of nations raises significant foreign policy concerns. This is true for cases involving parties as well as governments."

"Under the Constitution, international relations are vested exclusively in the political branches. The ATS should not be construed in a manner that will require courts to stand in judgment of foreign nations for any and all alleged violations of international law. Rather, such sensitive political questions should be left in the hands of the political branches," the brief continues.

For almost two centuries, this Alien Tort Provision lay relatively dormant. Recently, however, NGO and plaintiff lawyer groups have begun to use the ATP to seek redress for international human and labor rights issues in U.S. courts. This use of the ATP is harmful to U.S. foreign policy, and to U.S. economic interests.

Access the brief at: http://www.nftc.org/default/usa%20engage/Amicus%20Brief.doc

USA*ENGAGE is a coalition of over 670 small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. For more information on USA*ENGAGE and the harmful effects of unilateral trade sanctions, visit the USA*ENGAGE web site at www.usaengage.org.