Yesterday, the Supreme Court reversed a lower-court ruling in favor of corporate giants Nestlé USA and Cargill, leaving human rights advocates furious.
Over a decade ago, six men had attempted to sue Nestlé USA and Cargill over claims they were trafficked as child slaves to farms in the West African nation of Ivory Coast that supply cocoa to the two giant food companies, reports CNBC.
According to Common Dreams, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against the plaintiffs, saying they had not proven the companies’ activities in the U.S. were sufficiently tied to the alleged child trafficking. The companies had argued that they could not be sued in the U.S. for activities that took place in West Africa.
The six plaintiffs, from the nation of Mali, claim they are survivors of child trafficking and slavery on the ivory coast and had filed their lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute which gives the federal courts jurisdiction to hear lawsuits filed by non-U.S. citizens for torts committed in violation of international law.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has limited when the Alien Tort Statute can be invoked, especially when the offense had mostly occurred abroad.
“The corporations should be held accountable for abetting a system of child slavery, says Paul Hoffman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Human rights advocates have stepped in giving their opinion on the matter and showing their disdain for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The ruling implies that U.S. corporations whose executives decide, from comfortable American boardrooms, to profit from murder, torture, and slavery abroad cannot be sued in U.S. federal courts for violating international law. This ruling has disturbing implications for future victims of human rights abuses seeking justice against businesses in U.S. courts. This ruling also sets a dangerous precedent, giving corporations impunity for profiting from human rights abuses,” says Marco Simons, general counsel for EarthRights International.
“We’re celebrating ‘the end of slavery’ but American companies are still profiting off of slave labor,” tweeted Organizer Bree Newsome.