The Future of International Corporate Human Rights Litigation: A Transatlantic Comparison
64 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2022 Last revised: 2 Mar 2022
Date Written: March 19, 2021
Imposing legal liability on corporations for their involvement in human rights violations remains problematic. In the United States, civil liability in such circumstances developed in a series of Alien Tort Statute cases. This evolution came to an abrupt end with the cases of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Jesner v. Arab Bank. As corporate human rights litigation declined in the United States, courts in Europe were presented with their first civil cases, and plaintiffs had some successes. Legal remedies for corporate human rights violations also made it onto the agenda of policy makers at the European Union and national European governments with laws requiring companies to conduct human rights due diligence throughout their operations. Against this background, this article investigates the current state and potential future development of corporate human rights litigation in the United States and Europe. It seeks to answer the following questions: Is the United States losing its prominent place as a preferred forum for human rights litigation against corporate defendants, as recent Supreme Court decisions suggest? What made the U.S. courts attractive in the first place? Is Europe taking over this role, and if so, should the United States be concerned about these developments? Are recent doctrinal and legislative trends in Europe transferable to the U.S. legal system and suitable to fill the gaps left by Kiobel and Jesner? Finally, what do these shifts on both sides of the Atlantic mean for victims of human rights violations and their prospects of effectively pursuing their rights?
Keywords: Business and human rights, civil litigation, Alien Tort Statute, human rights due diligence
JEL Classification: K13, K33,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation