Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Kiobel and the US Alien Tort Statute: Australian Connections

Panguna Mine, Bougainville. Source:

Panguna Mine, Bougainville. Source:

By Jonathan Kolieb

Cynthia Banham wrote an insightful piece on this blog regarding the US Supreme Court’s Kiobel decision, which was handed down in April this year. The Court’s decision is of tremendous significance to the future of corporate accountability for heinous crimes. Indeed, the Kiobel decision, arguably, has a far greater impact on international, non-US firms than it does on US companies. On that basis, I would like to continue the conversation on this blog regarding corporate accountability in a post-Kiobel era that Cynthia has eloquently kicked off. To do so, I provide a few disconnected thoughts on the case from an Australian perspective. The judgment was influenced by Australian-linked developments, and it will have direct implications for Australian companies and potentially for our courts as well. 

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Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co – implications for international human rights litigation in the US

By Cynthia Banham

The US Supreme Court; Source: wiki commons

The US Supreme Court
Source: wiki commons

Until recently, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) (28 USC § 1350) was regarded by human rights activists as a critical tool in global efforts to hold human rights violators to account.

This curious American  statute, dating back to 1789, gives US district courts jurisdiction over civil actions by aliens for wrongs committed in violation of “the law of nations”. After being largely ignored for two centuries, it was rediscovered by human rights activists after the landmark 1980 case of Filártiga v. Peña-Irala. In that case, two Paraguayans successfully sued a former Paraguayan official (all three were resident in the US at the time of the lawsuit) over the torture and death of their family member in Paraguay.

But this April, the US Supreme Court in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co severely curtailed the application of the ATS in such cases, unanimously holding that the statute generally does not apply beyond America’s borders. Continue Reading →

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Image from the Law and Society Association

Image from the Law and Society Association


A number of RegNet researchers attended the Law and Society Association’s annual conference in early June in Boston. The conference’s overarching theme was ‘Power, privilege, and the pursuit of justice – Legal challenges in precarious times’. Many of panels addressed the potential as well as the limitations of human rights, including a panel on ‘The Extralegal Affairs of Rights’ convened by RegNet’s Kate Henne. Continue Reading →