Professional legal translation and interpretation services play an essential role in developing the evidence to satisfy Alien Tort Statute requirements. We touched upon this issue in the context of translations of product safety documents.
A recent decision from the DC Circuit Court (John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., No 09-7125) brings some clarity to the scope of claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. sec. 1350 (ATS). An ongoing question is whether or not the ATS applies to corporations or any individuals, with the courts being generally split on the issue.
In the case at hand, Indonesian citizens alleged that they were imprisoned and beaten by Indonesian soldiers providing security for Exxon. The plaintiffs sued Exxon under the ATS for aiding and abetting the Indonesian officials’ tortuous conduct.
In its decision, the court held:
- Aiding and abetting liability is available under the ATS
- Defendant in such claims can raise the issue of corporate liability under the ATS for the first time on appeal given the uncertainty in the state of the law
- The standard is that courts should not recognize private claims under federal common law for violations of any international law norm with less definite content and acceptance among civilized nations than the historical paradigms familiar when the ATS was enacted.
- Aiding and abetting liability by a corporate actor satisfies these requirements.