Thursday, April 18, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision yesterday in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case involving a claim under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 USC sec. 1350, that Royal Dutch Petroleum aided and abetted the Nigerian government in certain human rights violations. After two rounds of oral arguments on multiple issues, the Court dismissed the case against Royal Dutch Petroleum on one ground - that there is a presumption against extraterritorial application of U.S. law that was not overcome in this case. All of the revelant conduct in the case occurred in Nigeria. The Court held that there is no textual or other basis to assume that the statute is intended to reach conduct occurring abroad.
The Court did not decide the related issue of whether corporations may be held liable for torts in violation of international law under the ATS, leaving that issue for another day. The Court also did not expressly indicate whether a U.S. corporation could be held liable for torts committeed abroad under the ATS. Thus, while the Court's decision will likely reduce the number of ATS cases against corporations, it does not preclude them all together. The Supreme Court's opinion may be found here.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Watch History Being Made: Video of the Moment that New Zealand Passes Legislation for Marriage Equality
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has released its Annual Report for 2012. The Chair of the IACHR, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, presented the Report to the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS). The following information is taken from an IACHR press release:
"The [Annual Report] has four chapters. Chapter I refers to the legacy the IACHR has brought to the inter-American community of States and their peoples, and discusses the new human rights demands on the regional agenda and the Commission’s important contribution with respect to those new demands. Chapter II includes an overview of the Commission’s background and legal basis, along with a description of its most important activities in 2012. Chapter III contains the Commission’s decisions concerning allegations of human rights violations in the OAS Member States. This chapter also includes statistics on the Commission’s various tasks; summaries of the precautionary measures it adopted, modified, or expanded in 2012; and a follow-up to recommendations the Commission has made in decisions it has published since the year 2000. Chapter IV contains a specific analysis of the human rights situation in those OAS Member States the Commission has identified as needing particular attention: Cuba, Honduras, and Venezuela.
In 2012, the IACHR received 1,936 new individual petitions and accepted 137 petitions for processing. The Commission received 448 requests for precautionary measures and granted 35. It published 42 reports on admissibility, 17 on petitions found to be inadmissible, 8 on friendly settlements, 42 archive reports, and approved 15 reports on merits. Lastly, it submitted 12 cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In his remarks to present the report, the IACHR Chair said that the inter-American system’s effectiveness as a supranational mechanism for protecting human rights presupposes that the Member States comply fully and effectively with the decisions of the Court and the Commission. “While important progress has been made in the implementation of the recommendations of the IACHR and in compliance with the decisions of the Court, a level of progress that would guarantee the efficacy of the system’s decisions has yet to be reached,” the Commission Chair said."
The IACHR Annual Report may be found here.
Guatemala formally initiated dispute settlement proceedings against Peru at the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week with respect to additional duties being imposed on certain agricultural products. In accordance with WTO dispute settlement procedures, Guatemala has requested consultations with Peru. If those consultations do not resolve the matter within 60 days, Guatemala will be entitled to request the establishment of a dispute resolution panel. The matter has been assigned case no. WT/DS457/1.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Yesterday, Iceland became the first European nation to sign a free trade agreement with China. The purpose of the agreement is “to enhance their exchange and practical co-operation on the Arctic” and “further deepen their mutually beneficial co-operation in the fields of trade and investment.” Pursuant to the agreement, tariffs are most goods will be eliminated. Currently, trade between the two nations is relatively small, but that could change under the new agreement. Observers suggest that China has an interest in increasing its presence in the Arctic region and pursuant joint oil exploration activities with Iceland.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its decision today delimiting the frontier between Burkina Faso and Niger. The Court heard the case pursuant to a Special Agreement between the parties which they notified to the Court in 2010. The details of the ICJ's decision may be found here.