Aligning Global Justice and International Law a Philosophical Analysis of the Consequences of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Decision That Limits the Application of the Alien Tort Statute
Rajesh Sampath

This paper presents a philosophical critique of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that limits the application of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). On April 17th 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. on an issue that could impact the future of international human rights litigation: the nation’s highest court concurred with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by arguing that corporations cannot be held liable for torts violations under international law. This decision limits the ability of ATS to prosecute alleged human rights violations in foreign countries unless a commanding connection to the U.S. can be established. This paper argues that due to certain circumscriptions in the legal reasoning that underpinned the Supreme Court decision, the chances for global distributive justice based on the protection of global human rights is severely curtailed particularly in the absence of truly global judiciary systems of tort law. The paper concludes with general theoretical reflections on the intersection of ethics, rights, law and development and why that is significant for our understanding of contemporary global justice.

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