Alien Tort Statute’s extra-territorial wings clipped and Charles Dickens Smiles

NEW YORK (TIP): The Alien Tort Claim Act or ATS violated the core principle of respectful co-existence by and between sovereigns/nations in the comity of nations – and invited retaliatory reciprocity whereby other nations could pass laws that exposed United States citizens to liability on foreign soil for acts done here in the United States. ATS was a sovereignty killer – and that was its core sin.

The necessary clipping of its wings now makes it lawful. While it is risky to predict what the Supreme Court might do, I am glad my prediction came true in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. ATS, like Responsibility to Protect (R2P), while well-intentioned and humane, also has an underbelly of being a sovereignty-killer. Surely, no one can be against human rights, but using laws that have core birth defects or can be applied improperly need to be watched carefully – to paraphrase Charles Dickens, “the law must never be an ass.”

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