ATCA, Doe v. Unocal: A Paquete Habana Approach to the Rescue


The article's centerpiece is the Ninth Circuit litigation (Doe v. Unocal) charging Unocal Corp. with complicity in the Burma’s government’s use of forced labor. The article first examines the Alien Tort Claims Act, under which the action is brought, through an exploration of that statute’s original purpose and historical context. The article then looks at the modern revival of ATCA in international human rights claims, and finally closely considers the Unocal litigation, in particular the September 18, 2002 decision favoring the plaintiffs. (The 2002 decision is undergoing review by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, with the panel’s decision due this fall.) The article is critical of the sources of law choices of both the majority and concurrence in the 2002 decision, and concludes by proposing an expanded ‘Paquete Habana’ approach to determining instances of customary international law.


Human Rights Law | International Law | International Trade Law

Date of this Version

September 2003