Az amerikai Legfelsőbb Bíróság egy pár nappal ezelőtt hozott döntésében kimondta, hogy a kínzás áldozatait védő törvény (TVPA) értelmében kizárólag természetes személy elkövetőkkel szemben lehet kártérítési igényt előterjeszteni. A Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority (No. 11–88. Argued February 28, 2012—Decided April 18, 2012) ügy fontosabb megállapításai alább olvashatók:
“Petitioners are the relatives of Azzam Rahim, who immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s and became a naturalized citizen. In 1995, while on a visit to the West Bank, Rahim was arrested by Palestinian Authority intelligence officers. He was taken to a prison in Jericho, where he was imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately killed”.
“Petitioners concede that foreign states may not be sued under the Act—namely, that the Act does not create an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, 28 U. S. C. §1602 et seq., which renders foreign sovereigns largely immune from suits in U. S. courts. They argue, however, that the TVPA does not similarly restrict liability against other juridical entities. In petitioners’ view, by permitting suit against “[a]n individual,” the TVPA contemplates liability against natural persons and non-sovereign organizations (a category that, petitioners assert, includes respondents). We decline to read “individual” so unnaturally. The ordinary meaning of the word, fortified by its statutory context, persuades us that the Act authorizes suit against natural persons alone”.
“The Dictionary Act instructs that “[i]n determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise . . . the wor[d] ‘person’ . . . include[s] corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.” 1 U. S. C. §1 (emphasis added). With the phrase “as well as,” the definition marks “individual” as distinct from the list of artificial entities that precedes it”.
“Petitioners’ final argument is that the Act would be rendered toothless by a construction of “individual” that limits liability to natural persons. They contend that precluding organizational liability may foreclose effective remedies for victims and their relatives for any number of reasons. Victims may be unable to identify the men and women who subjected them to torture, all the while knowing the organization for whom they work. Personal jurisdiction may be more easily established over corporate than human beings. And natural persons may be more likely than organizations to be judgment proof. Indeed, we are told that only two TVPA plaintiffs have been able to recover successfully against a natural person—one only after the defendant won the state lottery”.
“We acknowledge petitioners’ concerns about the limitations on recovery. But they are ones that Congress imposed and that we must respect. … Petitioners’ purposive argument simply cannot overcome the force of the plain text. We add only that Congress appeared well aware of the limited nature of the cause of action it established in the Act”.
“The text of the TVPA convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this Branch to do otherwise”.