International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

US Supreme Court Rejects Trial for Argentine Victims

The U.S. Supreme Court came to the unanimous decision yesterday that it would not allow car company DaimlerChrysler Corp. to be prosecuted in the state of California.  Victims of abuse under the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976-1983 brought this suit against DaimlerChrysler, claiming the Argentine military carried out disappearances and torture with DaimlerChrysler’s knowledge and material assistance.  Victims argued that because Mercedes Benz, a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler Corp., did extensive business in the state of California, they had the grounds on which to prosecute in that state.  The Supreme Court, however, saw things differently.  Justice Ginsberg argued in the official decision that neither Daimler nor Mercedes Benz is “at home” in California, because they are not incorporated there.  Additionally, Justice Sotomayor claimed that U.S. courts did not have the legal grounds on which to prosecute a foreign company for a foreign crime committed against foreigners.

ruth bader ginsbergDonde_Estan_La_Verdad_Sigue_Secuestrada_JDUS Chysler Cerberus

What is so interesting about this case is not that it was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court– indeed, the court’s legal reasoning seems sound.  Instead, it is interesting that this case was brought under the assumption of U.S. jurisdiction, rather than taking advantage of universal jurisdiction.  The notion of Universal jurisdiction states that when an atrocity crime has been committed– war crimes, crimes against humanity (including disappearances like those in Argentina), or genocide– perpetrators can be prosecuted anywhere in the world, regardless of where, against whom, and by whom the crime was committed.  So, it seems strange that the victims would attempt to argue U.S. jurisdiction, rather than focus on proving atrocity crimes were committed, and therefore be granted universal jurisdiction.

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