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Residents of the Indian city of Bhopal sue a US corporation in New York after a toxic cloud escapes from a factory killing over 2000 people. In Manhattan, a group of Croats and Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina sues the self-proclaimed president of an unrecognized State for masterminding a campaign of forced impregnation, torture and genocide carried out by Serb military forces. A Kuwaiti pilot sues his government in London alleging that he was tortured by Kuwaiti State officials at the behest of a relative of the Emir of Kuwait. An Iranian national sues his government in Toronto claiming to have been tortured by police officers in Teheran. A Sudanese Presbyterian church sues a Canadian-based multinational corporation in US courts alleging their participation in acts of genocide and forced labour in Sudan. A Canadian man joins a lawsuit in the UK against Saudi Arabia and Saudi officials alleging he and three other Britons were tortured whilst in Saudi custody.
These are but a few examples of a growing number of cases in transnational human rights litigation, which can broadly be defined as civil proceedings in the courts of one country in respect of claims for human rights violations that occurred in another country. This book is about what happens when individuals or groups attempt to obtain civil redress in the national courts of one country in respect of internationally unlawful conduct perpetrated in a foreign country. It focuses particularly on such litigation in American, British, and Canadian courts. While the United States has enacted a unique legislative framework which, in combination with the common law, has allowed US federal courts to assert jurisdiction over civil claims for such extraterritorial human rights violations including torture, genocide, and crimes against humanity, no such legislation currently exists in Canada or the UK. One of the question that this book intends to answer is whether UK and Canadian courts can do the same in the absence of US-style legislation.