U.S. court refuses to hold Occidental liable in Colombia bombing
By Jonathan Stempel
Nov 12 (Reuters) - A divided federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to hold Occidental Petroleum Corp and a security contractor legally responsible for alleged complicity in a 1998 military bombing of a Colombian village that killed 17 people, including six children.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California said victims' families could not pursue claims against Occidental and Florida-based AirScan Inc under two U.S. human rights laws, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and Torture Victims Protection Act.
Writing for a 2-1 majority, Circuit Judge Jay Bybee cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, in finding that the ATS did not apply because the underlying conduct occurred "exclusively" in Colombia. He also said the torture victim law does not apply to corporate defendants.
In addition, Bybee said "international comity" justified dismissal, citing a 2004 State Department memo that said letting Colombian courts handle the matter advanced U.S. foreign policy.
"The crimes plaintiffs allege are abominable, but the facts of this case nonetheless favor applying adjudicatory comity," Bybee wrote.
Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta joined Bybee's 65-page decision, which upheld a 2010 lower court ruling. Both judges were appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.
Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said his clients are "very disappointed" and plan to ask a larger appeals court panel to revisit the case. He said the 9th Circuit viewed Kiobel differently in an earlier case concerning Nestle SA .
Occidental did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Continuación...