South-Western - Management  
The Court of Foreign Affairs
Topic Ethics and Social Responsibility
Key Words Human rights, global, social responsibility
InfoTrac Reference A103447335
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News Story 

An employee of Fresh Del Monte Produce in Guatemala was held at gunpoint and threatened with death if he didn’t resign and call off a planned protest against layoffs at other company plantations. Now this worker and others are suing Fresh Del Monte in federal court in Miami, charging that they were kidnapped and tortured in violation of both international human rights laws and U.S. law. They argue that a 1789 U.S. law allows them to sue. Fresh Del Monte says that even if the alleged conduct did occur, while inappropriate, it does not meet the legal definition of torture.

This suit is part of a broader campaign against U.S. multinational companies over their global operations. Lawyers and activists feel that U.S. corporations that partner with foreign governments or paramilitaries should be held legally responsible for human rights abuses that occur during their projects. Companies warn that these lawsuits could begin to curb U.S. corporate investment in developing countries, worsening human rights conditions.

Now the Bush administration is getting involved, asking courts to dismiss such cases and stay out of foreign policy, and saying that courts are not the place to air these grievances. The administration and the business community argue that the individuals bringing the lawsuits are using a 214 year-old law as a hunting license to promote an antiglobalization, anticapitalist, and antibusiness agenda. Advocates feel the administration is trying to turn back the clock on advances in human rights laws that have occurred in the last 23 years.

Questions
1.

Go to the website http://www.globalpolicy.org/intljustice/atca/atcaindx.htm for information on the Alien Tort Claims Act. Summarize what you learn. Should this Act be used to sue transnational corporations for violations of international law in countries outside the U.S., in your opinion?

Source "The Court of Foreign Affairs," U.S. News and World Report, June 23, 2003, p. 31.
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