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Intro: "Foreign political organizations like the Palestinian Liberation Organization and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or murder of persons abroad, including Americans, under the terms of a 1991 U.S. anti-torture law, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday. Only individual perpetrators of such crimes can be held liable"

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, shown delivering a speech at the University of Pennsylvania this month, spoke for the court in Wednesday's decision. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, shown delivering a speech at the University of Pennsylvania this month, spoke for the court in Wednesday's decision. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)



Supreme Court: Organizations Can't Be Sued for Torture

By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times

19 April 12

 

oreign political organizations like the Palestinian Liberation Organization and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or murder of persons abroad, including Americans, under the terms of a 1991 U.S. anti-torture law, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday.

Only individual perpetrators of such crimes can be held liable, the court said.

The decision is a setback for human rights activists who have sought to extend American law to target inhumane conduct aboard.

The justices said their decision was based on the words of the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991. That law authorized damage suits against "an individual" acting under the authority of a foreign nation who inflicts torture or murder.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, speaking for the court, said the "text of the TVPA convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this branch to do otherwise."

The PLO and the Palestinian Authority had been sued by the family of Azzam Rahim, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian origin, who was arrested in the West Bank while visiting there in 1995. He was allegedly tortured and killed by intelligence officers of the Palestinian Authority, according to the U.S. State Department.

Even if those charges are true, the suit cannot proceed, the high court said, because it does not mention an individual.

Several lower courts have allowed lawsuits that target multinational corporations for allegedly aiding foreign tyrants who tortured or killed. The high court's opinion cited those decisions and repeated its conclusion that only "natural persons" can be sued under the anti-torture law.

Wednesday's ruling does not concern a separate law, the Alien Tort Statute, which has opened the door for suits against multinational corporations for other overseas violations of human rights.

The justices heard arguments earlier in a case involving Nigerian plaintiffs who had sued the Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. under that statute. But rather than rule this term on that issue, the justices said they will hear a new round of arguments in the fall.

 

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+31 # Erdajean 2012-04-19 09:30
OK, then -- pursue those "natural persons" and make their lives a misery.
Instead of running up debts of trillions, invading Afghan homes and droning weddings, maybe the U.S. should draft a battalion of lawyers, to sue, sue, sue for violations of human rights.
One of the saddest things about modern life in the USA is that while "justice for all" may be the promise, it has to be paid for big-time, and most of the truly injured have not even a DREAM of doing that.
Above all, NEVER let the killers and torturers off the hook.
 
 
+62 # smilodon1 2012-04-19 09:57
But, corporations are people, my friend, so doesn't this slop over into organizations in general?
 
 
+38 # RLF 2012-04-19 11:11
Not unless it is convenient for the corporations. Don't you know who owns the Supremes?
 
 
+8 # Syacht 2012-04-20 09:49
One would think so! But then if that door was opened wouldn't the rest of the world come after Cheney, Bush and Rumsf---? I wish someone would!
 
 
+7 # rick 2012-04-20 10:13
...so if a single corp./bank orchestrated, for example 911, it could not be sued , only the 'actual' players? LOL ....DEAD PLANET! Don't follow the $$$$$$$$$$ trail? It seems now that torture will become very affordable for large corps/banks.
 
 
+27 # tedrey 2012-04-19 09:59
If we can't sanction our own home-grown torturers, even when we know exactly who they are, I doubt that we are the ones with the standing to go after "foreign" ones.
 
 
+29 # Progressive Patriot 2012-04-19 10:33
That should be the job ov the International Criminal Court, except that they can only go after people in member nations, and the US isn't a member of the court. Clinton was ready to sign, and when Bush took over, he refused ... do you think he might have already been planning the illegal invasion of Iraq, and other war crimes?
 
 
-58 # Robt Eagle 2012-04-19 11:17
Still blaming GW Bush for all the evils in this world? Get on with it, he protected our country with the items he put in place, and yes, the wars he pursued, so your sorry butt has the right to say bad things about him (and don't forget Cheney). Go ahead and enjoy your freedom to go about your business in America. Obama has continued those things that Bush and Cheney set up after 9/11/2001 and you know why? They worked!!!
 
 
+35 # CL38 2012-04-19 12:16
Bush and the right are responsible for the destruction of this country over the past 13 years, whether you deny it or not.

You can't wish -- or talk -- facts away, despite the effort you're putting into it.
 
 
+18 # pernsey 2012-04-19 22:27
Robt, just keep trying to sweep Bush and Cheney under the rug, they didnt protect us they scammed the whole country and invaded a country, Iraq, that had nothing to do with 9/11. Keep watching Fox News...after all... facts are just a nuiscance, right?

Bush and Cheney ruined this country, and now your hanging all their blunders on Obama, how convenient for you.
 
 
-8 # Robt Eagle 2012-04-21 06:28
pernsey, try reading "Intelligence Failure" by David Bossie to get to the truth and how we got to 9/11/2001. As far as Iraq, there were 150 million metric tons of yellow cake uranium taken out of Iraq to Canada for energy use. That began shortly after the Iraq war start and continued into 2009, if I remember correctly. AP reported that after it was accomplished so the bad guys couldn't get hold of the uranium. Also, going back to historical truth, the UN took over six months futzing around with the invasion into Iraq before it actually happened, and Sadam had plenty of time to move his precursors to WMD's to Syria and Iran. There are satellite photos of convoys doing just that. Also, many Iraq aircraft were uncovered that were buried in the desert, so more weapons could be out there never to found because they are covered by sand. Problem is the left media just does not report stuff that doesn't fit into their agenda that was Bush/Cheney were wrong. Oh, and don't forget Donald Rumsfeld who tried to minimize the amount of troops going into Iraq and just use Spec Ops, but the military brass wanted to use all they had available as the diferent armed forces vied for their place in the fight. Way more info available, but history will bear this all out, just will take time for the truth to come out and be compiled accurately. Start with reading "Intelligence Failure".
 
 
+6 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2012-04-21 10:58
You don't get it , do you? Your information comes from the same discredited sources that gave us the wrong WMD information in the first place.

Six months "futzing around?" Do you hear yourself? You sound just like the neocons who had already decided to invade, regardless of the evidence. Don't you get it? There was no need for an invasion at all, whether it met the neocon's timetable or not. If we had waited 7 months, maybe we could have stopped the unnecessary eight-year war, and over 100,000 deaths and the displacement of two million people.

Hans Blix was right and YOUR right wingers vilified him, because in their lethal arrogance, they could not conceive of anyone — especially from the UN — being smarter than they are.

"There were about 700 inspections, and in no case did we find weapons of mass destruction." Hans Blix.
 
 
+2 # pernsey 2012-04-21 15:13
Reductio, your correct on your assessment, he doesnt get it, hes following the mindless lies that got us here.

Thank you for your post.
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2012-04-25 18:09
Quoting Reductio Ad Absurdum:
You don't get it , do you? Your information comes from the same discredited sources that gave us the wrong WMD information in the first place.

Six months "futzing around?" Do you hear yourself? You sound just like the neocons who had already decided to invade, regardless of the evidence. Don't you get it? There was no need for an invasion at all, whether it met the neocon's timetable or not. If we had waited 7 months, maybe we could have stopped the unnecessary eight-year war, and over 100,000 deaths and the displacement of two million people.

Hans Blix was right and YOUR right wingers vilified him, because in their lethal arrogance, they could not conceive of anyone — especially from the UN — being smarter than they are.

"There were about 700 inspections, and in no case did we find weapons of mass destruction." Hans Blix.


Please folks -ignore it and it might not go away but just flap about in frustration in whatever world it lives in. It's not worth y'r goodness and is rattlin' it's empty skeletal structure in vague hope of some recognition. "Dem bones, dem bones dem -dry bones---etc!"
 
 
+2 # dwainwilder 2012-04-21 12:07
Still peddling the "Iraq yellocake" hoax? The snopes website is a factfinder/myth -buster. Here is what they say on the matter: http://www.snopes.com/politics/war/yellowcake.asp

We who lived through the tragedy of the Iraq fiasco, its lack of real planning for post 'shock & awe', the ridiculous policies, starting with firing the army and alienating the Baathist bureaucracy, allowing the looting of Tehran for sheer lack of imagination about what to do about it (Rumsfeld's remarkable 'Stuff happens...').

We know about the lies, the torture, the lies about the lies, Cheney's wars on truth-tellers. We'll have to wait for 'history' before we know about this? I don't think so.
 
 
+3 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2012-04-21 12:57
And let's not forget the rightwing-led abject asininity of the war on the French and "Freedom Fries!" How easy it is to forget that the tenor of the times was thick with colossal neocon hubris and the feigned patriotism, a la jingoism, they projected in order to hide their ultimate motivation — ARROGANT AVARICE, blood for oil.
 
 
-2 # Daniel1 2012-04-21 13:05
Once President Obama took office, all the problems became his, just like all Carters became Reagans, and Reagans became Bush Sr, whos in turn became Clintons, whos in turn became Bush Jr.

Oh and BTW, President Obama owns one title that cant be taken from him, and that is according to the US Treasury and the CBO/OMB; President Obama has spent more in one term and increased the national deficit, then any other president in American history including Bush Jr. At last count he added over 6 trillion dollars in 4 years. According to the US Treasury, Bush Jr only added 4.9 trillion in eight years. You can't wish -- or talk -- facts away, despite the effort you're putting into it.
 
 
+1 # Bill Clements 2012-04-22 13:34
It's not much of an effort. It's simply the lame parroting of conservative talking points.
 
 
+13 # maddave 2012-04-20 00:18
Robert Eagle wrote:
" Obama has continued those things that Bush and Cheney set up after 9/11/2001 and you know why? They worked!!!

Bullshit! The Bush/Cheney policies on torture are being continued because they have become embedded in the culture---the institutional memory--- of the USA's professional, career bureaucracy. Only an idiot---no offense intended---can believe that Obama or any other Chief Executive of the USA can quickly (if ever) reverse policies instituted and encouraged by his predecessors--- UNLESS THE WARLORDS WHO CONTROL THE VARIOUS FIEFDOMS THAT COMPRISE THE CAREER BUREAUCRACY ARE IN COMPLETE AGREEMENT.
 
 
+6 # rick 2012-04-20 10:29
$3trillion(and still counting) stolen, 1 million dead, approx 5 million refugees. Your sophistry is awesome Bro, really! OK, your wrong because plunder is groundless and will only lead to further 'breaking', this is why the planet is melting. Now YOU go ahead and enjoy your 'freedom' to go about your business in America, k. Nothing has ever been broken as proof of anything so you CAN'T be speaking the truth, it is mathematically imposible that 'They worked!'
 
 
+1 # rick 2012-04-20 10:46
the scotus decision is a high tech lure for comment. So if a woman hires a gang to torture her foreign born spouse in a neighboring country and is caught via sting she could counter-sue the actual participants(no t the law-enforcement agency) for invasion of privacy? LOL Great way to devalue currency.
 
 
+1 # hasapiko 2012-04-22 11:01
I don't blame Bush - the idiot. I blame the idiots who voted for him - twice!
 
 
+11 # Glen 2012-04-19 12:09
Progressive, a lot of what we are seeing today was in a planning stage a long time ago, way before Clinton. Clinton, in his own way, was following that plan, regardless of appearances. It was cemented under George W., and was no longer a behind-the-scen es set of activities and plans, but rather in our faces. The government and those connected no longer care that the plan is corrupt and obvious and costing the U.S. all resources, not to mention lives. There will be no international court or cooperation on any real level any long.
 
 
+58 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2012-04-19 10:04
One would think that "Citizens United," this court's own decision that essentially gave legal personhood to corporations, would have flown in the face of this decision, but logic doesn't seem to be a characteristic of this court. That bouncing sound you hear is a troop of Kangaroos hopping around in the Supreme Court Building.
 
 
+15 # Ninure 2012-04-19 10:18
I was thinking something along those same lines...
 
 
+22 # Doctoretty 2012-04-19 10:29
Too bad those organizations aren't incorporated, because as we all know, according to the SCOTUS, "corporations are people.!"
 
 
+52 # Progressive Patriot 2012-04-19 10:30
Then let's start holding the perpetrators accountable, starting with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, all of whom have admitted war crimes related to torture.
 
 
+18 # Erdajean 2012-04-19 12:24
Yes, YES! Here is an open window given us to do this. So what is wrong with The People Against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et al --?
ALSO -- as Dan Rather's truth gains standing, about Baby Bush's AWOL and de facto desertion, during the Vietnam war, why don't we go THERE, too? Desertion used to be a pretty serious, i.e. capital, offense.... Has the court changed that too?
 
 
+20 # Robert B 2012-04-19 10:56
It's rare to get a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court. And yet, if corporations are persons, doesn't it suggest that the Citizens United decision was a bit addled? Corporations are too big to fail, to "human" to restrain in any way, but not human enough to charge with obvious crimes. The Republicans have no trouble attacking organizations like NPR, PBS, Planned Parenthood, ACORN or the Postal Service without naming any specific individuals, but circle the wagons around individuals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, who actually did torture people, seemed to be proud of it and said they'd do it again. Doesn't the Supreme Court believe in class action suits?
 
 
+17 # Billy Bob 2012-04-19 11:07
If corporations aren't culpable as individuals then they aren't people. The court has just set a precedent that will result in the undoing of "Citizen's United". But of course, only after one of the conservative judges is replaced by a liberal - assuming our next president isn't a repuglican
 
 
+12 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-04-19 11:10
But aren’t Corporations persons, & aren’t persons individuals? So should does this affect Citizens United? SCOTUS & Congress can’t have it both ways...or so much for any kind of rational justice.
 
 
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-19 11:40
When American Dignitaries, Supreme Court Justices get kidnapped, then it will be Okay to let them be tortured. Fine with me. What goes around comes around.

I believe we should put people back in shackles and yokes in the town square. Let people see what it is like to be the Yolk of the Week!
 
 
+4 # Loupbouc 2012-04-19 11:43
Several comment-posters confuse issues (as do most people, very often).

A corporation is a "juristic person" for various purposes, including those of the freedom of speech and freedom of press provisions of the federal constitution's 1st amendment. Those 1st amendment provisions were the premise of the Citizens United decision.

The free speech and free press provisions' terms are not limited to "an individual" or "individuals" or even limited to "a person" or "persons" or "the People." Those terms provide merely that Congress shall not pass any law the limits free speech or free press, so that those terms apply to anyone or anything that can "speak" or conduct or use "the press."

A corporation is a "juristic person" also for purposes like suing and being sued and being guaranteed due process in litigation or having its property protected against the government's taking it without due process of law or not for public purpose or for public purpose but without just compensation.

Though a corporation is a "juristic person," it is not an "individual," which equals only "natural person." If the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991 had imposed liability on "any person" acting under the authority of a foreign nation, the Act might have applied to any "natural or juristic person."

The statute COULD NOT apply to a corporation. Its terms made it applicable only to "an individual."
 
 
+7 # fiercelibrarian 2012-04-19 12:40
Well explained. I was on the verge of outrage reading the headline but knew I needed more information about the decision. As it turns out it was a good legal decision. One that in saner times might lead to a revision of the 1991 law.
 
 
+15 # Billy Bob 2012-04-19 15:42
The point being that corporations share all of the legal benefits of individuals without having any of the associated responsibilities.

How convenient for them!
 
 
+11 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2012-04-19 16:56
You state, "Though a corporation is a "juristic person," it is not an "individual." We understand that distinction as it applies to the wording of the specific act in question which left a loophole. We're upset that the same parsing and distinction wasn't made conversely when the Supreme Court deemed that the founding fathers intended for freedom of speech to include the political influence-buyin g of multi-national corporations that far-outstrips the influence, and therefore, "rights," of real people, real individuals, real voters.

The conflation of juristic rights and individual rights is antithetical to centuries of American jurisprudence. As with ALL rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press have no absolute exemption from any regulation. In fact, they already HAVE had limits applied to them for centuries.
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-04-19 22:43
Very well worded response, especially regarding the selective and carefully worded "parsing" away of any logic in our rights, verses those of cold entities with absolutely no stake in our country or our collective future.
 
 
+14 # KurtLaw 2012-04-19 11:49
If Justice Sotomayor thought she had the power to help torture victims, she would do it. This case is only about the limits of the Court powers.

Activists bring about change to the Constitution. Always have. Always will.

Rebels from the American Revolution gave us Amendments I to X. Jeffersonian Democrats: Amendment XI and XII. Abolitionists: Amendments XIII to XIV. Woman's rights pioneers: Amendment XIX. The New Deal: XX and XXI. The "Movement" of the '60s: XXIII to XXVI.

Only 3 times has the Right Wing amended it: XVIII [prohibition], XXII [no 3rd term], and XXVII ["budget cutters", limiting pay increases for 535 people].

The Score over the course of two and half centuries:
Progressives: 24
Right Wing: 3 (one rescinded)

Don't worry. We'll amend it some more. Occupy the Constitution!
 
 
+6 # fiercelibrarian 2012-04-19 12:44
Excellent! I hadn't done the work of parsing the Amendments this way. And I think as you do re Justice Sotomayor.
 
 
+20 # lorenbliss 2012-04-19 11:59
"Corporations are people -- except when they're criminals." Ah, yes, Another Orwellian decision by SCROTUS, the Robber Court that has us by the genitals.
 
 
+8 # Billy Bob 2012-04-19 13:44
I think our SCROTUS has a bad case of Scalia.
 
 
-4 # Loupbouc 2012-04-19 13:51
You miscomprehend. See # Loupbouc 2012-04-19 09:43
 
 
+7 # Sensible1 2012-04-19 12:21
Still looking for a way to exonerate Bush, Cheney, and thugs....to say that they kept us safe is a very subjective and argumentative opinion by self serving biased individuals who find it hard to stomach, even now, what was done in the name of U.S. interests.
 
 
+7 # Billy Bob 2012-04-19 13:43
Not to mention the fact that they didn't even keep us safe.
 
 
+2 # worldviewer 2012-04-19 15:33
INDIVIDUAL AND CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP
If individuals, persons, organizations or corporations have rights they also have responsibilitie s.

If an individual commits a crime they can be brought to trial. They should not be able to hide behind a group affiliation to commit a crime with impunity.

But a distinction must be made between an individual who acts under orders to commit a crime (and with the threat of punishment for not acting so)and the individual who acts contrary to the policies of an organization.
 
 
-8 # Brent Davis 2012-04-19 18:40
We have not yet seen real
terrorists riding their camels in our
shopping malls and We have not yet seen
real terrorists riding their camels into
our sporting arenas either.
It's well past time they make sure we never see them there,..so instead they may agree to affect these offending Corporate Citizens who have OKed these crimes against them and the rest of humanity.
That way the future sourcing of these crimes against humanity will quickly come to an end and the terrorists will know who to affect,
while leaving the rest of us alone.
 
 
+8 # Syacht 2012-04-20 09:54
Your vision of a terrorist does not comport with reality! The USA has been committing acts of terror since the very beginning of this country and continues today. What do you think drones are?????
 
 
+7 # Billy Bob 2012-04-20 16:44
Where would they get the camel? It seems a lot easier to commit an act of terrorism without relying on stealing a camel from the nearest zoo. When global corporations commit terrorist acts here and abroad I don't think they rely on camels very often.
 
 
+1 # DLT888 2012-04-20 10:57
The Supremeless court can make all the crappy decisions they want, and that does not chance the Divine Law. Torture is WRONG and you can't take your lawyer (or the Supremeless court) with you when you get to the end of your sorry life and have that life review. Man's laws don't matter on that side.
 
 
+3 # mike/ 2012-04-20 10:58
while i understand the ruling's bases & that it is fairly narrow because it is a judicial one, i find the irony in the degrees of 'personhood' between this argument vs Citizen's Utility very amusing and i wonder if Sotomayor & others on SCOTUS realize it also?

at this point the only hope i see for repentance from this court is Justice Roberts seems to now be worried about the legacy that will be written about his - The Robert's Court - in the history books. so far it's pretty dastardly...
 
 
+2 # lpod 2012-04-20 19:16
Wait a minute. Didn't the Supreme Court rule that Organizations and Companies were people too. So are they contradicting themselves????
 
 
-2 # opit 2012-04-20 19:56
It would seem so.
Len Hart is a guest at Op Ed News and Bluebloggin - among others. His home site The Existentialist Cowboy is not short of research and citations, condemnation of Bush and Corporate Personhood and much more. Fair note : Len is no intellectual lighweight and is full of outrage and rancour - a superlative Texas blogger.
 
 
-2 # LessSaid 2012-04-21 13:20
Quoting lpod:
Wait a minute. Didn't the Supreme Court rule that Organizations and Companies were people too. So are they contradicting themselves????

Only the members who are to right. The members more to the left could not voted against this and still say corporations weren't people. This ruling only put the right into conflict with itself.
 
 
-2 # opit 2012-04-20 19:43
We're getting some heat but not a lot of light here. Let me be straight : I thought and still do that GWB-Cheney of the PNAC were the baddest baldfaced robbers around. But : they have had plenty of company and collusion including and perhaps especially the current incumbent. The Clinton Administration is when some of the scariest emperor style law came into force....passed by Congress. And Corporate Personhood is a jackass law....unless you know about incorporation for people. It isn't just secrecy in government that's the problem : secret law and law that isn't well known are problems enough. Then there's the farce called education instead of indoctrination.
Some background to chew on
opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2010/09/law.html
 

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