Thursday, April 19, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the only individuals who can be sued under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) are "natural persons." The Supreme Court, in a decision by Justice Sotomayor, dismissed a claim against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization that had been brought by the family of Azzam Rahim, a naturalized American citizen who was arrested by Palestinian authorities in 1995 during a visit to the West Bank. He was taken to a prison in Jericho, where the lawsuit claimed that he had been tortured and killed.
The Supreme Court ruled that under the TVPA, the term "individual" encompasses only natural persons. It affirmed the lower courts' dismissal of the case against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Click here to read the decision in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority. The decision was unanimous, except that Justice Scalia refused to join part III-B of the opinion. Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion in which he said that looking only at the word "individual" was not enough in this case because it might include corporations and other entities. But he found here that the legislative history of the TVPA revealed that the statute was intended to apply only to natural persons and not to corporations other organizations.