Human Rights Clinic Brief Cited by U.S. Court of Appeals Judges

March 10, 2011

An amicus curiae brief drafted by the Law School’s Human Rights Litigation and International Legal Advocacy Clinic was cited by two circuit judges in a recent oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. Prof. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin signed the brief, which was drafted by Prof. Jennifer Green as Counsel of Record and by student attorneys Astrid Brouillard (‘12), Anne Fuchs (‘12), James C. Horvath (‘12), Melissa Muro Lamere (‘12), Nathaniel Nesbitt (‘11), Feras Sleiman (‘12), and Leo Twiggs (‘11).

The Clinic submitted the brief for the appellant in the case of John Doe, et al v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al (09-7135, filed in November 2009). It involves Indonesian villagers’ claims that Indonesian military personnel hired by Exxon to guard a natural gas facility committed torture, extrajudicial execution, and prolonged arbitrary detention against Indonesian citizens.

The plaintiffs, Indonesian nationals, seek redress for their injuries through the Alien Tort Statute, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and the local laws of the District of Columbia and Delaware against the Exxon defendants for the acts of personnel under their control. The defense maintains that actions by Indonesian soldiers against citizens in Indonesia during an Indonesian civil war should be addressed by Indonesian institutions. Defendants further argue that corporations cannot be sued under the Alien Tort Statute because there is no precedent under international law to hold corporations liable for human rights violations.

U.S. Court of Appeals Judges David W. Tatel and Judith W. Rogers turned to the amicus brief of Nuremberg Scholars to assess the proper historical view of legal actions against corporations under international law. The Nuremberg Scholars’ brief, signed by Prof. Green, describes actions of the international body governing occupied Germany after World War II to hold persons, and corporations, accountable for violations of international law.

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