DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAW

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAW - Page 1 1 of 1 DOCUMENT Copyright...

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Page 1 1 of 1 DOCUMENT Copyright (c) 2001 The Harvard Law Review Association Harvard Law Review May, 2001 114 Harv. L. Rev. 2025 LENGTH: 10684 words DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAW - INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW: V. Corporate Liability for Violations of International Human Rights Law LEXISNEXIS SUMMARY: ... Most significantly, international law is virtually silent with respect to corporate liability for violations of human rights. International law has neither articulated the human rights obligations of corporations nor provided mechanisms to enforce such obligations. . .. The sources of these rights include numerous international treaties as well as customary international law. . .. B. The Gap in International Law . .. Since the nineteenth century, international law has addressed almost exclusively the conduct of states. Traditionally, states were viewed as the only "subjects" of international law, the only entities capable of bearing legal rights and duties. . .. The ATCA, as interpreted in recent cases, stands in stark contrast to the remedial gap in international law identified in the previous section. . .. The question becomes whether do- ing so would be legally permissible from the perspective of international law or desirable as a matter of policy. . .. Adju- dicating claims based on poorly defined norms would also violate jurisdictional principles under international law. . .. Yet public international law provides a set of principles for the determination of domestic courts' authority to adjudicate cases. . .. TEXT: [*2025] A number of multinational corporations have come under fire in recent years for alleged human rights abuses. n1 Most of the alleged perpetrators are corporations in the energy, n2 mining, n3 and manufacturing n4 industries; the alleged viola- tions range from severe environmental damage and inhumane working conditions to forced labor, torture, and killings. Corporate violations of human rights frequently go unredressed due to significant gaps in domestic and international legal regimes. Host countries are often unwilling or unable to impose criminal sanctions or provide civil remedies, and home countries generally do not exercise jurisdiction over the extraterritorial acts of multinational corporations. n5 Most significantly, international law is virtually silent with respect to corporate liability for violations of human rights. Inter- national law has neither articulated the human rights obligations of [*2026] corporations nor provided mechanisms to enforce such obligations. Corporations thus remain immune to liability, and victims remain without redress. Recent developments in American law raise the possibility that American courts may begin to hold corporations li- able for human rights violations. The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), n6 as interpreted in several recent cases, permits aliens to bring private tort suits against corporations for certain human rights violations committed in the United States or abroad. The first two ATCA cases brought against a corporation were filed in 1996 against Unocal for alleged human
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