Rio Tinto Genocide Case Dismissed by 9th Circuit

     (CN) – Taking its cue from the Supreme Court, the full 9th Circuit upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit accusing mining giant Rio Tinto of genocide and war crimes for its alleged role in a violent crackdown on native workers in Papua New Guinea.
     The federal appeals court issued a two-paragraph order dismissing the Rio Tinto case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.
     That ruling, issued April 22, held that a group of refugees living in the United States cannot sue the foreign oil companies that allegedly conspired with the Nigerian government to torture them.
     Both cases hinged on the judiciary’s interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute, which covers “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”
     In Kiobel, Justice John Roberts invoked a presumption against extraterritoriality for ATS cases. He said the statute was never meant “to provide a cause of action for conduct occurring in the territory of another sovereign.”
     An 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit took a different view two years earlier, when it allowed Papua New Guineans to proceed with their claims of genocide and war crimes against Rio Tinto.
     The 9th Circuit said those claims fell into an exception the Supreme Court carved out in 2004 for claims that violate “internationally accepted norms.”
     But the Supreme Court narrowed that exception this year in Kiobel.
     “There is no indication that the ATS was passed to make the United States a uniquely hospitable forum for the enforcement of international norms,” Roberts wrote.
     In the case against Rio Tinto, natives complained about the pollution caused by the company’s large copper mine in Bougainville and its alleged practice of paying black native miners less than white workers recruited off the island.
     Some residents tried to sabotage the mine, but the Papua New Guinea army mounted an attack that launched a bitter civil war from 1990 to 2000. The plaintiffs claimed the army, under Rio Tinto’s direction, violated international human rights law by bombing civilian targets, burning villages, and raping and pillaging.
     The case has gone before the full 9th Circuit two other times: first in 2008 and again in 2010.     

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