Corrie et al. v Caterpillar: Litigating Corporate Complicity in Israeli Violations of International Law in the U.S. Courts
Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, Vol. 12, 2005/2006
38 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2010
Date Written: September 5, 2007
In 2005 an attempt was made at enforcing international law on an American corporation said to be complicit in war crimes, extrajudicial killing and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment committed by the Israeli military. The civil suit, brought in a U.S. court, was dismissed without a hearing, in a brief statement mainly citing reasons of political expedience. The claimants in Corrie et al v Caterpillar include relatives of several Palestinians, and American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who were killed or injured in the process of house demolitions carried out using Caterpillar’s D9 and D10 bulldozers. They brought a civil suit in a US court under the Alien Tort Claims Act, for breaches of international law, seeking compensatory damages and an order to enjoin Caterpillar’s sale of bulldozers to Israel until its military stops its practice of house demolitions. An appeal is pending and will be decided on in the latter half of 2006. This article analyses the legal claims made in the case, as well as the politics of enforcement, and the economics of compliance. It concludes that, while in Filártiga, the court recognised that “plainly, international ‘law’ does not consist of mere benevolent yearnings never to be given effect.”, the Caterpillar appeal provides the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit with the opportunity to halt economic interests riding a metaphorical bulldozer through the law of nations, and instead, to show that domestic courts faced with individual claimants are in fact be instrumental in upholding (or letting down) international rule of law.
Keywords: corporations, complicity, occupation, alien tort claims act, international crimes
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