The Accountability of Multinational Corporations for Human Rights Violations: A comparative analysis of legal redress under the US Alien Tort Claims Act
Abstract: The US Alien Tort Claims Act renders vindication to foreign claimants of gross human rights violations committed by multinational corporations. The Act was first employed on State defendants yet US courts now permit claims against private corporations. This development has brought serious allegations against several of the world’s largest corporations. Some of the allegations concern severe infringements of human rights such as mass murder, rape and genocide, while other cases address freedom of speech and expression. The Act provides civil remedies and distinguishes from legislation in other parts of the world. There are important procedural hurdles to impose litigation, nonetheless the Act has instigated a debate on the risks involved with transnational corporate activities. While several cases have been dismissed and other settled, corporate aiding and abetting is the most prosecuted field of the litigation under the Act.The US Alien Tort Claims Act derives its support from international law and thus both domestic as well as international law is imperative for its interpretation. The implication of initiatives from the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as well as the European Union are discussed in a comparative manner. Several mechanisms have been proposed to attain greater corporate accountability, ranging from voluntary codes of conduct to binding international instruments. As corporations have become powerful global actors, the importance of foreign investments has developed into a discussion on the impact of multinational corporations in the global market and especially the implication of human rights. This thesis will discuss the current developments of accountability of multinational corporations with the starting point in the US Alien Tort Claims Act, a revision of the case law, and the importance of international and regional instruments especially in the European Union as well as United Nations and OECD.
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