Famous Supreme Court Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a human rights lawsuit brought against a security company accused of helping bomb a village in Colombia in 1998. The suit was filed against Occidental Petroleum Corp, which allegedly helped Colombia's military to carry out the deadly bombing.

The Supreme Court's decision to reject the lawsuit will leave a previous November 2014 decision intact. That ruling was issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that Occidental, based out of Texas, and AirScan Inc., based out of Florida, were not liable to victims' families for damages under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act.

Bombing Killed 17 People

The bombing referenced in the lawsuit happened in December 1998 in Colombia. The Colombian air force hit a village with a cluster bomb attack, which killed 17 people. Six of the deceased were children. The bombing happened in Santo Domingo, not far from an oil pipeline owned by Occidental. Prior to the bombing, the pipeline had been targeted by leftist rebels.

According to the civil rights lawsuit, AirScan and Occidental offered logistical and financial support to the Colombian military in order to carry out the deadly raid. However, both firms denied any wrongdoing. Occidental said that no lethal aid was provided.

Part of the reason why the 9th Circuit's 2014 ruling sided in favor of the defendant was due to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that makes it more difficult for injured parties to sue United States firms for activity that happens abroad. According to Reuters, U.S. firms targeted in similar personal injury suits have had a lot of success citing this 2013 ruling.

What Are the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Acts?

The Alien Tort Statute is a federal civil rights law that went into effect in 1789. It provides courts with jurisdiction to decide lawsuits filed by non-U.S. parties for injuries connected to violations of international law. The Torture Victim Protection Act was approved by President George H. W. Bush in 1992. It offers similar civil rights to both non-citizens and U.S. citizens to file injury claims related to extrajudicial killings and torture that happen abroad.