Human rights advocates Thursday denounced a Supreme Court decision in favor of the U.S. corporate giants Nestlé USA and Cargill, which were sued more than a decade ago by six men who say the two companies were complicit in child trafficking and profited when the men were enslaved on cocoa farms as children.
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.
Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general under the Obama administration, represented the two companies and also argued that they could not be sued for complicity in child trafficking because they are corporations, not individuals.
Writing at Slate last December, Mark Joseph Stern called Katyal’s position “radical” and “extreme,” detailing the nine justices’ skepticism about his defense of the companies—but the court ultimately sided with him.
The plaintiffs, who are from Mali and say they are survivors of child trafficking and slavery in Côte d’Ivoire, filed their lawsuit under the Alien Tort Statute, an 18th century law which allows federal courts to hear civil actions filed by foreigners regarding offenses “committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”
In recent years the Court has limited when the law can be invoked in court, arguing it cannot be used to file a lawsuit when the offense was committed “almost entirely abroad,” according to the New York Times.