Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Contrary to the claims of some observers, the Supreme Court's decision in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain does not sound the death knell for the use of the Alien Tort Statute to maintain human rights claims against private corporations in the U.S. courts. The decision clarifies the nature of claims under the Alien Tort Statue to some extent, and places some limits on the theories available in actions against private corporations, but for the most part such suits remain as viable after Sosa as they were before. That is not to say, however, that victims of corporate human rights violations in developing countries should hold out much hope that their lot will be bettered through Alien Tort Statute litigation in the United States. Even before Sosa, such suits had a chance of producing results favorable to foreign plaintiffs only with respect to a very narrow category of human rights violations. This paper first briefly describes the evolution of the Alien Tort Statute from the time it was reinvigorated in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala to the Supreme Court's decision in Sosa. It then discusses the implications of Sosa for human rights claims against private corporations and assesses the potential significance of federal human rights litigation as a mechanism for addressing the problems of those whose human rights are adversely affected by US corporations operating abroad.

Publication Citation

Carlos Manual Vázquez, Sosa v Alvarez-Machain and Human Rights Claims Against Corporations Under the Alien Tort Statute in HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE 137-147 (Thomas Cottier, Joost Pauwelyn & Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi eds., Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005)