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USA*Engage and NFTC Urge Administration to Press for Supreme Court Review of Alien Tort Statute Cases
Date: 12/11/2007

Washington DC – USA*Engage and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) today joined five other prominent trade associations in urging the Administration to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of the consolidated South African apartheid cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute. In letters to Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday, the associations urged the Cabinet officials to recommend to the Solicitor General that the government file an amicus brief in support of the petition for certiorari to be filed by the defendants in the case – Khulumani v. Barclays National Bank and Ntsebeza v. Daimler Chrysler, Nos. 05-2141 and 05-2326 [Second Circuit].
“Given the importance of this case, and the urgency of prompt Supreme Court review, we hope you will recommend that the government not await an invitation from the Court to present its views,” the associations asserted.
The case was originally dismissed in November 2004 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Subsequently, the Second Circuit vacated that dismissal on October 12, 2007, “in a decision that, among other things, wholly ignored the stated position of the U.S. government regarding the negative impact that the litigation would have on U.S.-South Africa relations.”
According to the letter, whose signatories also include the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the Corporate Council on Africa, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Organization for International Investment and the U.S. Council for International Business, there are a number of compelling reasons for the Supreme Court to hear the case as soon as possible. Among them, the associations argued, “The apartheid cases are based on allegations that the corporate defendants, including many major U.S. companies, aided and abetted violations of international law by the former South African government by doing legal business in South Africa.”
“The promiscuous use of the Alien Tort Statute by plaintiffs to bring before U.S. courts actions that occurred solely in other countries interferes with the conduct of foreign policy by the Executive Branch and impinges on the sovereignty of other nations, the associations stated. Further, the letter noted, “corporate liability for aiding and abetting ultimately has the same effect as a unilateral economic sanction by signaling to the private sector in which countries they should conduct business and in which they should not.”
“This litigation has very real implications for the nature of our relations with South Africa, and other key allies who are concerned about the use of the Alien Tort Statute,” said NFTC President and USA*Engage Co-Chair Bill Reinsch. “We urge the Administration to acknowledge the importance of the lawsuit with respect to U.S. foreign policy, by supporting the certiorari petition to be filed by the defendants.”
For copies of the letters, please click here.

USA*Engage ( is a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. Established in 1997 and organized under the National Foreign Trade Council (, USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policy-makers, opinion-leaders, and the public about the counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions, the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs, and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy world wide.
The National Foreign Trade Council ( is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.