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October 19, 2005

Feinstein: Protect Corporate Violations of Human Rights

Diane Feinstein, despite a moderately liberal voting record, periodically goes out and stabs progressives in the back, almost always on behalf of core business interests allied to her campaigns or her husband's many business interests.

On Monday, Senator Feinstein introduced legislation to undermine what is known as the Alien Tort Claims Act, an old law dating back to the first years of the Republic that has been revived in recent years by human rights activists to hold corporations responsible for their actions in developing nations.

EarthRights International has been one of the key organizations using the law in defense of indigencous people and other groups who have seen their homes and even lives destroyed by multinational corporations collaborating with torture and slavery.

Here a good basic fact sheet on ATCA, but the bottom line is that these corporations take advantage of pathetically weak legal systems in other countries, make their profits, haul it back to developed nations like the United States -- and expect never to be held accountable for the murder and slavery that made those profits possible.

The Bush Administration has been trying to undermine ATCA for a number of years -- with the support of Tony Blair's government -- but it is just sad to have a supposedly liberal Democrat like Diane Feinstein helping Bush out by sponsoring this legislation.

The flashpoint for the new interest in ATCA was the success of a case, Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, in June of 2004. As detailed by EarthRights International:

In a huge victory for victims of human rights abuses, the Supreme Court today affirmed that non-U.S. citizens may sue their abusers in U.S. federal court, under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA).

“This is fabulous news for human rights,” said Rick Herz, Staff Attorney at EarthRights International. “The Supreme Court has validated the last 24 years of consistent case law allowing victims to seek justice in U.S. courts. We are going to continue to seek to hold abusers, and the corporations that assist them, accountable.”

So what Bush -- and now Feinstein -- want to do is reverse this victory and shut the courtroom door to those victims. It's not like ATCA has been a massively effective law in shutting down corporate operations overseas, but these corporations don't even want the possibility of having to answer questions about their dirty dealings overseas.

You can write a letter to President Bush protesting this attack on ATCA here.

Or you can email Senator Feinstein here.

Posted by Nathan at October 19, 2005 02:04 PM