Mastafa v. Chevron Corp.

Are corporations complicit in torture in foreign countries exempt from lawsuit in United States courts?

Victims and families of victims of human rights abuses under the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq sued Chevron and a French global banking group for allegedly acting in contravention of United Nations sanctions against Iraq to provide financial aid to the regime at a time when such aid was purportedly used to finance various human rights abuses, including torture and killing. The case was brought in the United States under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which establishes a right of civil action for victims of torture and extrajudicial killing. The district court followed the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Bowoto v. Chevron Corp.see below, in holding that corporations may not be sued in United States courts for torture committed in other countries, and dismissed the claims on this ground. Public Good, along with a large number of human rights and labor organizations, joined a brief authored by International Rights Advocates in support of Plaintiffs’ appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the decision was contrary to judicial precedent, as well as to the legislative history of the statute, and that strong policy reasons favored holding corporations liable under TVPA. If upheld, this decision would create an unjust result by providing corporations with special immunity for human rights violations they commit in the global economy.

759 F.Supp.2d 297 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)