West Law Report

Human Rights Plaintiffs May Plead Aiding and Abetting Theory of Liability

Posted in Alien Tort Claims Act, apartheid, Harvard Law Review (case) by mrkooenglish on May 24, 2008

A case summary of Harvard Law Review (May 2008): Khulumani v. Barclay National Bank Ltd., 504 F.3d 254 (2d Cir. 2007) (.pdf) (8 pages):

FEDERAL STATUTES — ALIEN TORT STATUTE – Second Circuit

Some of the most interesting and unsettled questions in human rights litigation after Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain concern the status of secondary liability theories, prominently including aiding and abetting. Although several courts have held that aiding and abetting liability is available in Alien Tort Statute (ATS) cases, there is continuing debate over whether it should be available at all, how it should be defined, and what sources of law courts should consult for answers to these questions. Recently, in Khulumani v. Barclay National Bank Ltd. (2007), a Second Circuit panel held that ATS plaintiffs “may plead a theory of aiding and abetting liability,”5 but split on whether courts should look to customary international law or federal common law to determine the availability and scope of this liability theory. Although the three separate opinions in Khulumani indicate the difficulty of the issue, the best reading of the key U.S. cases and of customary international law is that courts should look primarily to federal common law to decide questions about aiding and abetting liability in ATS cases.

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