March 21, 2013 — David Scheffer, director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University and former U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, will give the keynote presentation at a symposium at Allegheny College that will focus on issues related to human rights, international corporations and American law. The symposium, on April 1 and 2, is free and open to the public.
Speakers and panelists will explore the relationship between multinational corporations and human rights, with particular attention to a principal means by which corporations have in recent years been liable for violations of international law: the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), or the Alien Tort Claims Act. An act of Congress passed in 1789, the ATS permits U.S. federal courts to adjudicate claims arising under international law, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes, slavery and piracy.
The applicability of that statute is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Kiobel case. Any day now, the Court will announce its decision regarding corporations’ liability—in U.S. courts—for human rights abuses committed abroad in contravention of international law. If the Court rules as anticipated, corporations will not be subject to suit for violations of international law in U.S. courts.
Scheffer will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 1 in the college’s Ford Chapel. The Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law at Northwestern University, Scheffer served as Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues from 1997 to 2001, during which time he negotiated the creation of five international and hybrid war crimes tribunals. He teaches international criminal and human rights law and is the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert on U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.
Selected as one of Foreign Policy’s “Top Global Thinkers of 2011,” Scheffer is the author of “All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals.”
The symposium will continue on April 2 with panel discussions from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the auditorium at Quigley Hall. In addition to Scheffer, panelists will include Professor Caroline Kaeb of Northwestern School of Law and Professor Duane Windsor, who is the Lynette S. Autrey Professor of Management at Rice University.
The morning sessions will focus on discussion of the implications of the ATS decision for the pursuit of corporate actors in international human rights law.
Lunch will be available at noon, and a closing conversation will follow.
The symposium is sponsored by Allegheny College’s Center for Political Participation, in partnership with the Robert H. Jackson Center. Support has been provided by the Crawford County Community Foundation, the Cathy Forsyth McKeever ’63 Faculty Support Fund, the Office of the Provost and Dean of the College, Allegheny Student Government, the Program in International Studies and the Departments of Economics, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Political Science.