Editorial Note: This morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch-Shell, a case which we have blogged about extensively over the past 18 months. Several of our staff members were in attendence, and four of them wrote brief initial impressions. This is one of those four.
One of the most remarkable moments for me, during today’s arguments, was when the respondents argued that international law didn’t apply to corporations because the texts of international treaties and conventions didn’t specify that they applied to corporations in particular.
In response, Justice Kagan countered: “well, the text of those conventions doesn’t mention that Norwegians can be sued either, but that doesn’t mean that the Norwegians should be exempt from human rights liability.”
Justice Kagan is exactly right: the norms prohibited under international law are prohibited regardless of who violates them. This is true whether one is “Pirates Inc.” or, in Justice Kagan’s hypothetical case, Norwegian.