On December 21, 2011, ERI submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, on behalf of ERI’s clients in Bowoto v. ChevronTexaco. The Mohamad case was brought by the son and estate of an American citizen who was allegedly tortured and murdered by security police of the Palestinian Authority. The case presents the question of whether a legal entity can be sued for its involvement in torture or summary execution under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The lower courts are split on whether the term “individual” in the statute covers legal entities as well as natural persons.
This issue also arose in Bowoto; in that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that corporations may not be sued under the TVPA. The Bowoto plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to review that decision, but the Court has not ruled on the petition, presumably because it expects that its decision in Mohamad is likely to resolve the issue in Bowoto. The Bowoto plaintiffs’ amicus brief in Mohamad argues that the TVPA allows claims against legal entities, including corporations, for torture and extrajudicial killing, and that the TVPA’s use of the term “individual” to describe defendants was intended only to exclude foreign states, not corporations or organizations.
On April 18, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled against the Mohamad plaintiffs, deciding that the word “individual” in the TVPA only applies to human beings. This decision also resulted in the denial of the petition for review in Bowoto.