The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously April 17 in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum that nothing in the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 (ATS) rebuts the US presumption against extraterritoriality and that suits challenging torture and international law violations that took place overseas cannot be brought in US Court. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion. Kiobel was held over from last term when the court decided that the parties should brief on the circumstance when the ATS should apply extraterritorially. In the new ruling the court held that extraterritorial disputes—those concerning foreign actors that violate treaties to which the US is a party—cannot be litigated in the US under the ATS, and "sufficient force" is necessary to displace that presumption. The opinion also suggested that "mere corporate presence" will not suffice to bring suit in the US:
Four Nigerian residents and an advocacy group told a Dutch court on Oct. 11 that Shell should be held liable for damage from oil pollution in the Niger Delta. The suit, which was filed by the four villagers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands in 2008, is the first time a Dutch company has been sued for the alleged misconduct of its foreign subsidiary. Shell has maintained throughout the trial that the case should be heard in Nigeria and that the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction. Friends of the Earth Netherlands says that the case could set an international precedent encouraging victims of pollution by Western corporations to sue in the Netherlands and other nations in the EU, noting that there are hundreds of thousands of pollution victims in Nigeria alone. Shell argues that the pollution damage was caused by thieves who sabotaged the oil lines and that its local subsidiary fulfilled its duty in cleaning up the spills. A verdict in this case is expected by early 2013.
Gunmen attacked two ships off the coast of Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta Aug. 4, killing two naval troops protecting the vessels and seizing four foreign workers before fleeing. Six naval troops were aboard the vessel, which belongs to the Sea Truck oil services company. The Nigerian navy has dispatched boats and a helicopter to the area. Sporadic attacks on oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta have continued despite a 2009 amnesty for militant groups. (AP, Radio Netherlands, Aug. 4)