"A narrowly divided Supreme Court held in Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In its current form, the ATS provides that 'The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.' This single-sentence statute has been the subject of intense interest in recent decades, as it has evolved from a little-known jurisdictional provision to a prominent vehicle for foreign nationals to seek redress in U.S. courts for injuries caused by human rights offenses and acts of terrorism. In a series of decisions, however, the Supreme Court has placed significant limitations on the ability to pursue claims under the ATS, and the High Court has never ruled in a plaintiff's favor in an ATS case. Jesner's holding barring foreign corporate liability marks a continuation of this trend, causing some to debate whether the ATS remains a viable mechanism to provide redress for human rights abuses."
CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10147
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html