Justice Across Borders: The Struggle for Human Rights in U.S. Courts
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This book studies the struggle to enforce international human rights law in federal courts. In 1980, a federal appeals court ruled that a Paraguayan family could sue a Paraguayan official under the Alien Tort Statute - a dormant provision of the 1789 Judiciary Act - for torture committed in Paraguay. Since then, courts have been wrestling with this step toward a universal approach to human rights law. The book examines attempts by human rights groups to use the law to enforce human rights norms. It explains the separation of powers issues arising when victims sue the United States or when the United States intervenes to urge dismissal of a claim. Moreover, it analyzes the controversies arising from attempts to hold foreign nations, foreign officials, and corporations liable under international human rights law. While Davis's analysis is driven by social science methods, its foundation is the dramatic human story from which these cases arise.
village to force villagers . . . to carry rice and ammunition to the outposts which guarded the Yadana gas pipeline project, clear the brush at the outposts, guard the pipeline route, and carry supplies – including food which the soldiers had stolen from the villagers.”93 “In September 1993,” plaintiffs claimed, “when the village could not provide enough laborers, [soldiers] took the village officials, tied them up in the middle of the village, and tortured them.”94 On Kadic, Plaintiffs’
case is you have to establish contacts with community groups, human rights groups.” “You have to get them to trust you and to believe that you will do this competently,” Eisenbrandt continued, “we have to work very hard to establish our trust.” “That’s the first step,” he said, “because then those people will put you in touch with the witnesses or with the victims.” “If you’re looking for a witness and your contact calls the witness and says look you can trust these people they’re doing a really
again to this friend and he says, ‘I don’t know anything. I don’t know why my friend gave you my phone number but I do know this teacher in this school and if you call her, her son knows.’” She went on, “So you just keep calling and finally, finally they take you to the right person – and it’s the best day of your life.”165 ERI’s Katharine Redford described a specific example of tapping into local activists to gather evidence. ERI was “documenting human rights abuses against local people because
experience that we’ve had with the Filartiga regime has made it quite clear that these lawsuits provide tremendous problems for the foreign policy interests of the United States.”178 In its decision, the Supreme Court described the government as arguing that “there is no relief under the ATS because the statute does no more than vest federal courts with jurisdiction, neither creating nor authorizing the courts to recognize any particular right of action without further congressional action.”179
When the Sosa Court instead held that the “door is ajar” to ATS cases, the administration sought to keep that opening as narrow as possible. Of the thirty-seven cases in which the United States has participated, twenty-two of these occurred during the Bush administration. The Bush Administration supported the defendant in every case. Of the six federal Circuits that have decided ATS cases during the Bush presidency, the administration has tried to control ATS jurisprudence by intervening in 5 of