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Eleventh Circuit rules that district court lacked jurisdiction under Alien Tort Statute over lawsuit against Chilean army officer for torture occurring in Chile

On January 3, 2018, in Jara v. Nunez, No. 16-15179, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s claims which asserted U.S. district court jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. Section 1350. The plaintiff, the representative of the estate of an Argentinian citizen who was tortured and killed while under detention in Chile following General Pinochet’s coup in that country, filed a lawsuit against the defendant, a former Lieutenant in the Chilean Army. Some of the claims which were not dependent on the Alien Tort Statute for jurisdiction were tried and resulted in a large verdict for the plaintiff. However, the claims relying on the Alien Tort Statute were dismissed by the district court for lack of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling, quoting Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 569 U.S. 108, 124–25 (2013) for the proposition that a claim must “touch and concern the territory of the United States . . . with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application” before a federal court may exercise jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute. In this case, none of the conduct took place in the United States. The plaintiff asked the Court to consider other factors, including the fact that the defendant subsequently moved to and obtained citizenship in the United States. The Eleventh Circuit rejected the latter basis for asserting jurisdiction, citing Doe v. Drummond Co., Inc., 782 F.3d 576, 601 (11th Cir. 2015) as holding that the U.S. citizen status of the defendant is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction.

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