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The Safe Conduct Theory of the Alien Tort Statute


Thomas H. Lee


Fordham University School of Law


Fordham Legal Studies Research Paper No. 77

Abstract:     
In this Article, Professor Lee introduces a novel explanation of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) - a founding-era enactment that has achieved modern prominence as a vehicle for international human rights litigation. He demonstrates how the statute was intended to address violations of something called a "safe conduct" - a sovereign promise of safety to aliens from injury to their persons and property. The safe-conduct theory advances a new modern role for the ATS to redress torts committed by private actors - including aliens - with a U.S. sovereign nexus, and not for international law violations committed by anyone anywhere. In developing this contextual account, Professor Lee resolves uncertainty over the constitutional basis for the ATS and shows how, even with sparse conventional sources, the original meaning of an iconic founding-era statute might be recovered.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 79

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Date posted: February 22, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Lee, Thomas H., The Safe Conduct Theory of the Alien Tort Statute. Fordham Legal Studies Research Paper No. 77. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=687799 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.687799

Contact Information

Thomas H. Lee (Contact Author)
Fordham University School of Law ( email )
140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
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