Letters: U.S. law abroad

Re "Alien torts in America's courts," Editorial, Oct. 8

Your editorial on whether the Alien Torts Statute applies to human rights abuses occurring outside the United States makes the mistake of assuming that the issue of piracy, which clearly and unmistakably is subject to universal jurisdiction, is necessarily a "logical extension" of that tried-and-true policy. But piracy has been around for ages, and this kind of lawlessness has for eons been considered the enemy of mankind.

However, the issue of corporate liability (in this case, Shell Oil Co., a British-Dutch company, is accused of colluding in attacks in Nigeria on anti-drilling activists) is newer to international law, so the Supreme Court understandably wants to ensure that there is widespread acceptance and crystallization of the norm before authorizing lawsuits against foreign corporations in the United States.

Striking the right balance is hugely important to our foreign policy and our reputation as an advocate of internationally recognized human rights.

James P. Rudolph

La Jolla


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