Friday, September 4, 2009
South Africa drops opposition to Alien Tort Statute claim
There have been a lot of news this year about cases based on the Alien Torts Statute, which recognizes the right of foreign nationals to sue in US federal courts to recover for injuries caused by conduct that constitutes a violation of the law of nations. See here for recent posts on the topic. These cases included claims against Pfizer for allegedly testing drugs without consent on African children and against Shell Oil for aiding and abetting in crimes against humanity in Nigeria. Last April, federal district court Judge Shira Scheindlin denied motions to dismiss claims that Ford, General Motors, IBM, UBS and others aided and abetted crimes committed by the apartheid regime in South Africa. Today, Law.com is reporting that the South African government announced that it had dropped its opposition to the litigation. Such opposition could have been a major obstacle for the plaintiffs' claim because it could have supported a finding that either the claim should be transfered to the South African courts or that the claim implicated a political question which would have eliminated the jurisdiction of the court. For more on the story go here.