Go to the U of M home page.

Prof. Green and Human Rights Litigation Clinic Submit Second Amicus Brief in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

OCTOBER 15, 2012—Recently as counsel of record on behalf of the London-based Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB); legal scholars and experts Errol P. Mendes, David Petrasek, and John F. Sherman III; and the Law School's Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic, Law School Professor and director of the Clinic Jennifer Green submitted an amici curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell).

Plaintiffs in the case allege that Shell was complicit in flagrant human rights violations committed against peaceful protestors to oil exploration in the Nigerian region. Shell argues that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), the federal law allowing tort claims by aliens for violations of the law of nations or U.S. treaties, does not apply because the link between the human rights abuses and the United States is too weak, and that such suits place an unsustainable burden on corporations and federal courts.

The IHRB brief corrects defendants' inaccuracies and distortions regarding corporate ATS cases and whether they place an unreasonable burden on U.S. courts. "ATS cases have contributed to an international system of greater self-regulation for multinational corporations and are an important means to level the playing field for businesses which are not complicit in human rights abuses," it says.

Clinic students Dev Gowda (’13), Britt Johnson (’12), Michele Lobo (’13), Sam Manning (’13), Sara Mendoza (’13), and Feras Sleiman (’12) worked on the brief during the spring semester, and summer Clinic student directors Kayleigh Brown (’13) and Laura Matson (’13) helped finalize and submit the brief to the Supreme Court in June.

This is the second amicus brief submitted by Green and the Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. In December 2011 Green and the Clinic team prepared and submitted a brief for 18 prominent legal scholars that discusses Nuremberg-era international trials in occupied Germany after World War II as well as other actions under international law against corporations complicit with the Nazis. The Nuremberg brief highlights the importance of this jurisprudence to the development of international law norms and interprets their jurisprudence as supporting the liability of corporations and other organizations for violations of international law.

The IHRB is a global center dedicated to raising awareness and strengthening public policy to ensure that corporate activities do not contribute to human rights abuses. It provides expertise, analysis, and an impartial space for dialogue on the relationship between business and international human rights standards. Legal redress for business participation in human rights violations is one of its top ten emerging business and human rights issues for 2012.