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Court Watch

string of Alien Torts Statute (ATS) litigation in the Supreme Court do not find the decision entirely surprising, especially considering that the Kiobel decision determined that there must be some “relevant conduct” in the United States to give rise to liability under the ATS.

In Daimler, the Supreme Court felt that the pre- sumption against extraterritoriality announced in Kiobel necessarily meant that U.S. courts could not claim jurisdiction in a case “involv[ing] foreign plaintiffs suing a foreign defendant based on for- eign conduct.” Harkening back to International Shoe, but the Court recognized that the place- ment of a product into the stream of commerce “may bolster an affiliation germane to specific jurisdiction,” the Court reiterated that entrance into the stream of commerce does not necessar- ily give rise to general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation.


The Court further noted that the plaintiffs failed to submit that the California subsidiary played any role in the alleged wrongful conduct in Argentina. Moreover, the Court paid particular attention to the chilling effect a grant of general jurisdiction in Daimler would have on business, both in the United States and abroad.

Sotomayor, who concurred in the judgment, ex- pressed hesitancy at the Court’s conclusion, call- ing it “wrong as a matter of both process and substance.” The concurring Justice chided the Court, quipping that corporations which society thought “too big to fail” had suddenly become “too big for general jurisdiction.”

The Daimler ruling does not entirely close the door for foreign corporations to be sued in U.S. courts: Plaintiffs may still claim specific jurisdic- tion over foreign corporations for actions in con- nection with business conducted in the United States. The case, however, along with Kiobel, will undoubtedly cool litigation of claims under the Alien Torture Statute and Torture Victims Protec- tion Act, especially by foreign plaintiffs. According

to one commentator, the judgment “may even conceivably spell the end of most nationwide class action lawsuits.”

* Submitted by Kaitlin Ball

French Court Opens Trial Against Former Rwandan Intelligence Chief

On February 4, 2014, a French court opened trial against Pascal Simbikangwa, the Rwandan intel- ligence chief during the 1994 Rwandan genocide that claimed the lives of several hundred thou- sand ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu. Simbikang- wa was arrested in 2008 in Mayotte, an overseas French department located between Madagascar and Mozambique. Simbikangwa was charged with complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity, charges that can carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 22 years in prison. On March 14, Simbikangwa was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Before the 1994 genocide, France had been Rwanda’s main western ally. Paul Kagame, a Tutsi rebel leader during the genocide, has been the de facto leader of Rwanda since 1994 and the de jure leader since 2000. After the genocide, Kagame accused Paris of training and arming the Hutu forces that carried out the attack, a claim that Paris denies.

In 1996, a new law in France granted the courts jurisdiction to hear charges of certain war crimes, including some that occurred in the Rwandan genocide. However, France has been less than eager to hold accountable those who are respon- sible for the massacre.

France’s reaction to the genocide has been wide- ly criticized. Activists have found several former Hutu leaders living comfortably in French cities, calling France a “safe haven” for Rwandans sus- pected of genocide. Supranational Courts are also taking a stand. In June 2004, the European Court of Human Rights fined France for dragging its

ILSA Quarterly » volume 22 » issue 4 » May 2014

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