May 05, 2022

Durbin, Brown Introduce Legislation to Clarify Critical Tool for Holding Human Rights Violators Accountable

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced the Alien Tort Statute Clarification Act, legislation which will expressly state that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) applies extraterritorially.  This clarification will ensure that foreign national victims can hold perpetrators within the jurisdiction of the United States accountable for human rights violations that occur abroad.

“It is imperative that we treat international human rights as not just an aspirational concept, but a legal reality,” Durbin said.  “The bill Senator Brown and I are proposing will clarify Congress’s intent to ensure that human rights violators within the jurisdiction of our courts can be held to account by their victims regardless of where the abuses occurred.”

“For decades, corporations have closed down production in Ohio and outsourced to the lowest global bidder.  And these corporations would have you believe they are not liable on civil grounds for forced labor – including child labor – in their global supply chains, after arguing at the Supreme Court for a contrived loophole,” Brown said.  “To eradicate forced labor from global supply chains, we need to clarify that the Alien Tort Statute always applied to cases abroad, as Congress intended.”

The First Congress originally enacted the Alien Tort Statute as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789 to ensure that foreign citizens would have a remedy in U.S. courts for civil wrongs in violation of international law.  In recent decades, the ATS has served as an important tool for holding violators of international human rights accountable.  In recent years, however, the Supreme Court has called on Congress to clarify whether the ATS applies to extraterritorial violations of international law.  The legislation Durbin and Brown are proposing answers that invitation and clarifies that the ATS applies wherever the violations take place as the First Congress intended. 

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