Amicus curiae of Supreme Court
Posted on 28/06/2012
Cees van Dam (pictured), Visiting Professor at King's College London, has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court, in collaboration with four Dutch colleagues, in a high profile case that sees Nigerian claimants pitched against oil company Shell. The Supreme Court is currently deliberating over whether American courts may keep hearing liability cases that are not, or are hardly, connected to the American legal order.
An amicus curiae brief is evidence provided to a court by those not party to a case and is information voluntarily offered to assist a court in deciding a matter before it. The Kiobel v Shell case is filed by Nigerian claimants, against Dutch-British company Shell, for human rights abuses that took place in Nigeria. The Supreme Court would like to know whether other countries allow such claims before their national courts.
Professor van Dam said: ‘One of the questions the Supreme Court needs to answer is whether it has the jurisdiction to hear the Kiobel v Shell case. We have submitted an amicus curiae brief which we hope will provide a legal insight for the Supreme Court about the rules regarding Dutch law with respect to claims by foreign claimants against foreign companies for facts that occurred outside the Netherlands.’
The Dutch amicus curiae brief shows that it is possible to file similar claims before the Dutch courts and that this does in fact happen. In this respect, the brief calls into question the validity of the amicus curiae brief on behalf of the British and Dutch governments in which it is alleged that adjudicating such claims by national courts would be contrary to public international law.
Professor van Dam said: ‘Claims for violations of the law of nations other than those provided for under international treaties, including claims against non-State actors, are actionable in the Netherlands under long-standing tort law principles.
‘Dutch courts may also, under certain circumstances, assume jurisdiction over civil claims against foreign defendants not domiciled in the Netherlands.’
The Kiobel v Shell case is about the alleged involvement of multinational Shell in human rights abuses against Nigerian environmental campaigners in the 1990s. It is one of the most fundamental cases in US law over the possibility of holding companies liable for their involvement in human rights abuses abroad.
The Supreme Court will reopen the hearing later this year and will probably decide the case in 2013.
Professor van Dam is available for interview. Please contact Anna Mitchell on 0207 848 3092 / email@example.com
For further information about King’s, visit our ‘King’s in Brief' page.