Legal News

Supreme Court Says Torture Law Applicable only to People
Download PDF
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinian Authority and PLO do not come under the ambit of the U.S. victim protection law of 1991. In a lawsuit over the alleged torture of an American in a West Bank Prison, the Supreme Court held that the law only applies to individuals.

The court agreed with the Obama administration that civil lawsuits in U.S. courts under the Torture Victim Protection Act can only be brought against individuals and not against groups or organizations. The lawsuit had been brought by a naturalized U.S. citizen, Azzam Rahim, against the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.

Previously, an appeals court had dismissed the lawsuit, the Supreme Court concurred.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “We hold that the term ‘individual’ as used in the act encompasses only natural persons. Consequently, the act does not impose liability against organizations.” The court also stressed that the text of the legislation did not imply any other intention of the Congress than what was specifically expressed.

Justice Sotomayor said the arguments of the plaintiffs were not tenable. She refuted the argument that precluding liability of organizations may foreclose effective remedies for victims and their relatives where it is difficult to identify individual perpetrators of torture. However, the court held that the Congress was well aware of such limits when it created the legislation.

Hearings are also scheduled later in October over the questions of the applicability of Alien Tort Statutes in a related case, and whether U.S. courts possess the jurisdiction to admit lawsuits against multinational corporations over allegations of human rights abuses committed abroad.

Get JD Journal in Your Mail

Subscribe to our FREE daily news alerts and get the latest updates on the most happening events in the legal, business, and celebrity world. You also get your daily dose of humor and entertainment!!

The lawsuit brought on behalf of the U.S. citizen by family and well wishers claimed that he was tortured and killed in 1995 at a prison in Jericho while in the custody of Palestinian intelligence officers. The PLO has denied such allegations, and the Supreme Court has held in the absence of specifically identified individuals, the case loses merit against a group – at least as far the jurisdiction of the torture law is applicable.

Critics opine that the ruling would undermine the safety of U.S. individuals in foreign soil, because it would be extremely difficult for torture victims to identify foreign individuals in their own country.

The Supreme Court case is Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, No. 11-88.



Part-time Contract Federal Government Contracts Attorney


Koprince Law LLC, a boutique law firm in Lawrence, Kansas that focuses exclusively on the unique leg...

Apply now

Legal Secretary

USA-LA-New Orleans

A New Orleans litigation law firm is seeking an experienced Legal Assistant / Legal Secretary to und...

Apply now

Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney

USA-TX-Fort Worth

We are currently looking for a consumer Bankruptcy Attorney to join our team. This position is respo...

Apply now

Case Manager / Legal Assistant / Paralegal


Want to have a fulfilling career with purpose helping military veterans? We are a *dog friendly* ...

Apply now




Search Now

Tax Attorney

USA-MI-Bloomfield Hills

Bloomfield Hills office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks tax attorney with 10+ yea...

Apply Now

Tax Attorney


Detroit office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks tax attorney with 10+ years of exp...

Apply Now

Litigation Attorney


Illinois office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks litigation attorney with 3+ years...

Apply Now


To Top