Last week, as the Kiobel case was being argued inside the Supreme Court, and many of ERI’s attorneys were sitting inside listening to oral arguments, I stood outside holding a sign that read, “Corporate Torture is Still Torture.”
As a law student, I would have loved to be sitting in that court room, listening to the caustic banter between Shell’s attorney, Kathleen Sullivan, and the nine Justices. But as an activist, I was so proud to be standing outside, with ERI and other activists, rallying for something in which I so strongly believe: that U.S. courts should provide a forum to everyone, no matter their national origin, to pursue justice for the most heinous of international human rights violations, including torture, murder, and rape.
Nonetheless, as I helped with the vigil ERI had organized, I waited impatiently for the attorneys to emerge. As I handed out brightly colored signs with #ShameOnShell emblazoned across them, I could not stop thinking about what was happening inside. I was so anxious.
Although I only began interning at ERI a month ago, I have long been following their work. In fact, ERI and others’ groundbreaking work with the Alien Tort Statute was one of the primary reasons I decided to go to law school. Rallying outside the Court, I was acutely aware of the tireless labor by ERI and others, over three decades of ATS human rights cases, and I struggled with the thought of all of that being taken away. I knew that a ruling against the plaintiffs would mean not only an upset for the human rights legal community, but also crushing disappointment to victims of human rights violations who believe vehemently in what the USA has to offer –an opportunity for them to finally seek justice.
I’m still nervous as we await a decision. But in the short time I’ve spent at ERI, I’ve learned one thing in which I take comfort: Kiobel is only one battle in this proverbial war against corporate human rights abuses. For the plaintiffs in this case, a loss would be a devastating disappointment, but the human rights movement is strong and growing, and is on the right side of history. No matter what the Court decides in Kiobel, the fight against corporate human rights abuses will continue. And based on the hard work and dedication I’ve witnessed so far, justice will prevail.