Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Texas District Court Dismisses Alien Tort Statute Case Against Energy Company

A federal district court in Texas has dismissed claims alleging human rights violations against oil companies and individuals involved in the oil business. Like several other courts, the court in Abecassis v. Wyatt concluded that the plaintiffs failed adequately to plead that the defendants had aided and abetted human rights violations, because the allegations did not establish that the defendants intended to assist the violations.

Between 2000 and 2003, numerous suicide attacks took place during the second major Palestinian uprising in Israel, the Second Intifada. Major news sources began reporting in August 2002 that Saddam Hussein was paying $25,000 to families of suicide bombers and $10,000 to families of other Palestinians who died during the Intifada. Plaintiffs in Abecassis are individuals wounded in those attacks, or family members of victims who were killed. Defendants are a group of companies and related individuals whom plaintiffs alleged paid illegal kickbacks or surcharges to obtain oil from Iraq through the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program.

Plaintiffs sued defendants under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), the Torture Victim Protection Act (“TVPA”) and the Antiterrorism Act (“ATA”). Their theory of liability, which was ultimately rejected by the court, was that: 1) defendants’ kickbacks to Hussein made defendants aiders and abettors of Hussein’s payments to families of suicide bombers, and 2) Hussein’s after-the-fact payments to the families of suicide bombers were a proximate cause of the victims’ deaths in the suicide attacks.

In dismissing the case, the court first noted that all plaintiffs lacked standing to sue under the ATS and TVPA because they had not shown a “causal connection” between the victims’ injuries and defendants’ alleged kickback payments. There was no allegation that the kickbacks were paid to the terrorists’ families, and in fact, the court noted that Hussein had admitted many other uses of the supposed kickbacks. Second, the court relied on international law to determine the standard for aiding and abetting an ATS violation, which requires that plaintiffs allege not only that the defendant knew of the primary violator’s wrongful act but also that the defendant shared the primary violator’s purpose to commit the wrongful acts. Plaintiffs failed on both fronts, and the ATS and TVPA claims were dismissed without leave to replead.

Although complaints invoking the ATS and TVPA to sue multinational energy companies for incidents overseas continue to be filed, claims that rely on attenuated theories of liability have faced increasing obstacles at the motion to dismiss stage. This is particularly true, as illustrated by this opinion, where liability is premised on indirect money payments.

Friday, April 23, 2010

CARLOS ISRAEL DIAZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al
No. 09-13855. United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
April 16, 2010.

Before DUBINA, Chief Judge, MARCUS and FAY, Circuit Judges

Excerpt:

"The ATCA is not only a jurisdictional statute, but it also "provides a cause of action for the modest number of international law violations with a potential for personal liability at the time of its enactment." Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1246 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). To state a claim for relief under the ATCA, a plaintiff must prove a prima facie case that he is "(1) an alien, (2) suing for a tort, which was (3) committed in violation of international law." Id. We have previously held that non-torture claims of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment are not cognizable under the ATCA. Id. at 1247.

Because we are bound by our prior precedent unless and until it is overturned by this Court en banc or by the U.S. Supreme Court, see United States v. Vega-Castillo, 540 F.3d 1235, 1236 (11th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 2825 (2009), we affirm the district court's dismissal of Diaz's claims in relation to the . . . the ATCA."

Widespread Systematic Sexual Abuse?

Belgian bishop quits over sex abuse

[UPDATE: see NYT]

A Belgian bishop has resigned after admitting he sexually abused a young boy more than two decades ago.Roger Vangheluwe, 73, is the first bishop to have been directly implicated in a church since a string of abuse cases and subsequent cover-ups began to emerge last year.

In a statement released on Friday the Bishop of Bruges said: "When I was still a simple priest and for a while when I began as a bishop, I sexually abused a young man in my close entourage.

"This has marked the victim forever. The wound does not heal. Neither in me nor the victim, he said, adding that had asked for forgiveness and was "enormously sorry".

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Vangheluwe's resignation, under a canon law provision for "illness" or unspecified "other serious reasons", the Vatican said.

'Culture of secrecy'

A number of other bishops have resigned since scandals involving catholic priests began sweeping Europe and the Americas last November. More...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's beginning...

California: 2 Archdioceses Sued
By REBECCA CATHCART
Published: April 20, 2010

Lawyers for a Mexican man who says he was abused as a boy by his priest in Mexico filed a civil complaint Tuesday against archdioceses here and in Mexico. The complaint was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act, meant to prosecute human rights abuses committed outside the United States. The complaint accuses Cardinals Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles and Norberto Rivera of Tehuacan, Mexico, of transferring the priest, the Rev. Nicol├ís Aguilar-Rivera, a Mexican citizen, between dioceses despite his history of sexual abuse. Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Cardinal Mahoney was not warned of the priest’s history before the transfer. A 20-year-old warrant for the arrest of the priest on 19 counts of child rape is pending in Los Angeles. He was defrocked in 2009.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010



USA (April 06, 2010): An email sent by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) informs that this U.S. based non-profit national human rights advocacy group has filed a civil lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act against India’s Union Minister, Kamal Nath, for his participation in the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs in Delhi, India.


SFJ filed the suit along with two individuals who were directly affected by the November 1984 Sikh genocide. The lawsuit has been docketed (10 CV 2940) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and has been assigned to Honorable Judge Sweet. The District Court has issued a summons and Minister Nath must respond within 21 days. More...

Friday, April 2, 2010



By Philip Pullella – Thu Apr 1, 1:08 pm ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, accused by victims' lawyers of being ultimately responsible for an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests, cannot be called to testify at any trial because he has immunity as a head of state, a top Vatican legal official said on Thursday.

The interview with Giuseppe dalla Torre, head of the Vatican's tribunal, was published in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper as Pope Benedict led Holy Thursday services in St Peter's Basilica and Catholics marked the most solemn week of the liturgical calendar, culminating on Sunday in Easter Day.

In the morning the pope blessed oils for Church services during the year, and in the evening in the Rome basilica of St John's in Lateran he washed the feet of 12 priests to commemorate Jesus' gesture of humility the night before he died.

But on the day Catholics commemorate Christ's founding of the priesthood, the pope did not refer in any of his sermons to the crisis of confidence sweeping the Church as almost daily revelations surface of sexual abuse of children in the past, accompanied by allegations of a cover-up.

Dalla Torre outlined the Vatican's strategy to defend the pope from being forced to testify in several lawsuits concerning sexual abuse which are currently moving through the U.S. legal system.

"The pope is certainly a head of state, who has the same juridical status as all heads of state," he said, arguing he therefore had immunity from foreign courts.

Lawyers representing victims of sexual abuse by priests in several cases in the United States have said they would want the pope to testify in an attempt to try to prove the Vatican was negligent.

But the pope is protected by diplomatic immunity because more than 170 countries, including the United States, have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. They recognize it as a sovereign state and the pope as its sovereign head.

Dalla Torre rejected suggestions that U.S. bishops, some of whom have been accused of moving molesters from parish to parish instead of turning them in to police, could be considered Vatican employees, making their "boss" ultimately responsible.

CHURCH NOT A MULTI-NATIONAL

"The Church is not a multi-national corporation," dalla Torre said. "He has (spiritual) primacy over the Church ... but every bishop is legally responsible for running a diocese."

Dalla Torre also rejected suggestions by some U.S. lawyers and critics of the Church that Vatican documents in 1962 and 2001 encouraged local bishops not to report sexual abuse cases.
He re-stated the Vatican's position that the documents, one of which called for procedures to remain secret, did not suggest to bishops that they should not report cases to authorities.
"Secrecy served above all to protect the victim and also the accused, who could turn out to be innocent, and it regarded only the canonical (church) trial and did not substitute the penal process," he said.

"There is nothing that prohibited anyone (in the Church) from giving information to civil authorities."

The Vatican has taken off the gloves in its response to media reports alleging the pope mishandled a series of abuse cases before he was elected.

It launched a frontal attack on the New York Times on Wednesday night by posting a long statement on its website (http:/www.vatican.va/resources/resources_card-levada2010_en.html) by Cardinal William J. Levada, who succeeded the pope (http:/www.vatican.va/resources/resources_card-levada2010_en.html) as head of the Vatican's doctrinal department.

Levada asked the newspaper "to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on."

The Vatican has denied any cover-up over the abuse of 200 deaf boys in the United States by Reverend Lawrence Murphy from 1950 to 1974. The New York Times reported the Vatican and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, were warned about Murphy but he was not defrocked.

The Times said its reports were "based on meticulous reporting and documents."
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
The Catholic Church's Catastrophe
WSJ - April 2, 2010

There is an interesting and very modern thing that often happens when individuals join and rise within mighty and venerable institutions. They come to think of the institution as invulnerable—to think that there is nothing they can do to really damage it, that the big, strong, proud establishment they're part of can take any amount of abuse, that it doesn't require from its members an attitude of protectiveness because it's so strong, and has lasted so long.

And so people become blithely damaging. It happened the past decade on Wall Street, where those who said they loved what the street stood for, what it symbolized in American life, took actions that in the end tore it down, tore it to pieces. They loved Wall Street and killed it. It happens with legislators in Washington who've grown to old and middle age in the most powerful country in the world, and who can't get it through their heads that the actions they've taken, most obviously in the area of spending, not only might deeply damage America but actually do it in. More...
How a Molesting Case Emerged Decades Later
NYT-April 2, 2010

ESSEN, Germany — The case that has raised questions about the future pope’s handling of a pedophile priest in Germany came to light three decades after it occurred, and then almost by chance. It happened when Wilfried Fesselmann, an early victim, said he stumbled on Internet photographs of the priest who sexually abused him, still working with children. More...