Adjudication without Frontiers
Edited by Horatia Muir Watt, Lucia Bíziková, Agatha Brandão de Oliveira and Diego P. Fernandez Arroyo
This is a (purported) child slavery case involving cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. Such farms supply the cocoa which is transformed and ultimately marketed worldwide by the defendant(s) (Nestle USA, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill), powerful multinational actors in the agro-food industry. It was alleged that the defendant corporations aided and abetted child slavery by providing assistance to Ivorian farmers. First filed in 2005 as a class action in federal court, in the name of the (purported) child slaves, the case raised two sets of jurisdictional issues under the Alien Tort Statute. One was the geographical scope of that statute. On this point the question, shrouded in controversy since the Kiobel case, is whether the situation in dispute ‘touches and concerns’ the territory of the United States. But for the purposes of this chapter, it is the second issue concerning the material scope of the statute which elicited from the Ninth Circuit the most remarkable response. According to the Alien Tort Statute, federal courts have jurisdiction over torts committed by aliens in violation of the law of nations. Jurisdiction depended therefore on whether or not there had been a violation of the law of nations on the part of the defendants. While the law of nations forbids aiding and abetting a crime (that is, providing assistance or other forms of support towards its commission), the question arose as to whether the defendants had acted, as required by the rule of international law, with ‘knowledge’ or (more stringently) ‘purpose’ of facilitating the criminal act.
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