In the News

A Needed Human Rights Law

New York Times


In 1996, American lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Swiss banks of withholding the assets of Holocaust victims. Two years later, the suit was settled, and a fund of $1.25 billion was established to pay those with legitimate claims. The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act -- a little-known statute that is a powerful tool for promoting human rights. But now the Justice Department wants to end the law's use in such suits, a reversal that would effectively grant impunity to those who abuse human rights abroad.

U.S. Agency to Be Cited in Suit About Trade and Child Labor

The New York Times

by Elizabeth Becker

WASHINGTON, May 28--An international labor rights group announced today that it planned to sue the United States Customs Service for breaking American trade law and allowing African cocoa picked by indentured child labor to be imported into this country.

Terry Collingsworth, director of the International Labor Rights Fund, said his group had grown impatient with the Customs Service for failing to investigate accusations that cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast used slave or indentured child labor.

Lawsuit Filed Against Occidental Petroleum for Involvement in Colombian Massacre


(Los Angeles, CA)-- On April 24, 2003, a group of international human rights attorneys shall be bringing suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act against Occidental Petroleum (OXY) and its security contractor, Airscan, Inc., for their role in the murder of innocent civilians in the hamlet of Santo Domingo, Colombia on December 13, 1998. The suit is being filed by International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the Center for Human Rights at the Northwestern University School of Law.

Bittersweet Chocolate

By Caroline Tiger

Chances are good that child workers -- some of whom are slaves -- helped produce your valentine bonbons. The chocolate industry has promised to get kids out of the cocoa trade. But profits still come before progress.