US Supreme Court finds that foreign citizens cannot sue foreign corporations for civil damages under ATS.

On 24 April 2018, the US Court rendered its decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank. The Court found that foreign citizens cannot sue foreign corporations for civil damages in U.S. federal courts for serious violations of international law, such as torture or extrajudicial killings, thus again limiting the scope of the ATS. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Justice Kennedy, who concluded that judicial deference requires that any imposition of corporate liability on foreign corporations for violations of international law must be determined in the first instance by the political branches of the Government.

The Court notably held : ” Petitioners insist that whatever the faults of this litigation—for example, its tenuous connections to the United States and the prolonged diplomatic disruptions it has caused—the fact that Arab Bank is a foreign corporate entity, as distinct from a natural person, is not one of them. That misses the point. As demonstrated by this litigation, foreign corporate defendants create unique problems. And courts are not well suited to make the required policy judgments that are implicated by corporate liability in cases like this one. Like the presumption against extraterritoriality, judicial caution under Sosa “guards against our courts trigger- ing . . . serious foreign policy consequences, and instead defers such decisions, quite appropriately, to the political branches.” Kiobel, 569 U. S., at 124. If, in light of all the concerns that must be weighed before imposing liability on foreign corporations via ATS suits, the Court were to hold that it has the discretion to make that determination, then the cautionary language of Sosa would be little more than empty rhetoric. Accordingly, the Court holds that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the ATS”.

The decision is available online : Link