Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789: An 18th Century Law Becomes a 21st Century Tool in Combating Human Rights Violations - An Ethical Examination

A recent decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vitiates both tactics, and exposes U.S. mulinational corporations to liability for human rights violations committed by foreign governments in the course of undertaking economic development projects. In Doe I v. Unocal Corp., residents of Myanmar, alleging human rights violations- forced labor, murder, rape and torture- perpetrated by the Myanmar military in developing a gas pipeline, were permitted to proceed with their action against Unocal Corporation, the Myanmar government's commercial partner in the pipeline development project, under the Alien Tort Claims Act. While this decision was suspended by the Ninth Circuit pending rehearing by the en banc court and therefore cannot be cited as precedent except to the extend adopted by the en banc court, the authors of this paper seek to demonstrate that the panel decision is consistent with ethical theory.