Leading Business Groups Urge Federal Court to Dismiss South African Alien Tort Lawsuit

Monday, 24 August 2009
Washington, D.C. – The National Foreign Trade Council, joined by the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Council for International Business, the Organization for International Investment and USA*Engage, today filed an amicus brief with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in support of defendants who are appealing a lower court ruling in the alien tort lawsuit charging multinational corporations with aiding and abetting human rights violations during apartheid in South Africa.

The lawsuit, now known as Balintulo v. Daimler, AG, et al., was originally filed in 2002 against 85 U.S. and European companies that had done business in South Africa prior to 1994. The case was dismissed in Federal District Court in 2005, but was sent back to that Court by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007. Since then the District Court has ruled that the case may go forward and the defendants have appealed to the Second Circuit to dismiss the case. This amicus brief is in support of that appeal.
This is one of several lawsuits brought under the alien tort statute that allege the conduct of lawful business in a country with a poor human rights record constitutes aiding and abetting violations of international law. The NFTC has urged the federal courts to dismiss these cases.

The amicus brief filed today cites the fact that both the U.S. and the South African governments have asked that the case be dismissed and concludes that “where the executive branch determines that trade will promote the interests of the United States (and improve the lot of foreign citizens as well) courts must respect that determination by shutting down inconsistent litigation at the earliest opportunity.”