Litigating Environmental Abuses Under the Alien Tort Claims Act: A Practical Assessment

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Litigating Environmental Abuses Under the Alien Tort Claims Act: A Practical Assessment

Virginia Journal of International Law, Winter 2000 (40 Va. J. Int’l L. 545)

This article demonstrates that some victims of environmental abuses caused by transnational corporations may have strong claims in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The article reviews voluminous sources of international law and shows how they establish norms of customary international law that plaintiffs can rely on to bring ATCA claims for redress of egregious environmental devastation. It explains that plaintiffs in appropriate circumstances may have claims asserting the right to life, the right to a healthy environment, crimes against humanity, race discrimination, genocide and cultural genocide.

The article also discusses many of the arguments corporate defendants have used to try to dismiss ATCA environmental and human rights cases. Claims similar to those addressed have been and are being litigated currently in suits against Union Carbide regarding the Bhopal disaster in 1985, Freeport-McMoRan regarding its mine in Irian Jaya, Rio Tinto regarding its Panguna mine in Bougainville, Texaco regarding its destruction of the Ecuadorean Amazon and Southern Peru Copper Corporation regarding its smelter in Ilo, Peru.

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