Protecting universal human rights
The Post missed the mark in its Oct. 5 editorial “Court shopping,” which advocated clear limits on the scope of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell), the complaint is that Shell directly assisted the Nigerian military in torturing and killing innocent villagers. If true, the purpose of Shell’s misconduct was to gain economic advantage in its business. Shell argued that as a Dutch corporation, it should not have to answer in America for these alleged human-rights abuses.
Shell is wrong. The United States should enforce the universally accepted international law against torture. Shell is a multinational corporation that operates a billion-dollar business in America. If Shell has used torture to gain an advantage in its business, including its massive U.S. operations, we have a direct interest in holding Shell responsible for its conduct. A level playing field, free from torture as a tool for reducing costs, is an essential feature for the U.S. petroleum market. We also have an interest in providing justice to the Kiobel plaintiffs, who are lawful U.S. residents.
The United States also has an obvious interest in making universally recognized human rights protections effective. Our Founders enacted the ATS two centuries ago to affirm our commitment to the rule of international law among all the world’s nations. Indeed, in 1795, the U.S. attorney general specifically advised that the ATS open our courts to violations of international law in Africa. More than 200 hundred years later, in an interconnected global economy, our interest in upholding the statute and the remedies it affords is stronger than ever.
William R. Casto, Lubbock, Tex.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton, N.J.
The writers have co-authored amicus briefs in favor of the plaintiffs in the Kiobel case.