On May 5, 2014, U.S. District Judge Jose Linares in Newark, New Jersey failed to dismiss a claim against Rajakumara Rajaratnam for violations of the Alien Tort Statute. The Alient Tor Statute was eneacted in 1789 and gives federal courts subject matter jurisdiction over claims by non-U.S. citizens for human rights violations committed in other countries. Rajarantnam, a former hedge fund manager convicted of insider trading, was the founder of New York’s Galleon Group, a hedge fund management firm. The allegations against him include aiding and abetting human rights violations by funneling millions of dollars to the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan Terrorist group. The case implicates not only Rajaratnam, but also his father Jesuthasan and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, A Sri Lankan NGO that raised money for the Tamil Tigers.
These lawsuits are in light of five bombings that were carried out in 2007 and 2008. The bombings were an attempt to establish an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka, which resulted in a civil war that ended in 2009 after an utter defeat by government forces. The bombings include an April 6, 2008 suicide bombing at the start of a marathon that killed 15 people and injured more than 90 others. The U.S. government has designated the Tigers as a foreign terrorist organization, which expressly prohibits individuals form providing the group with financial and other material support, which was provided by Rajaratnam.
The support of terrorism is atrocious and it was the right call for the District Judge to exert subject matter jurisdiction on Rajatnam; however, on appeal the United States will surely dictate how far they are willing to exert their influence. While this is a positive step deterring others from supporting terrorists, other countries may see this as an opportunity for the United States to extend its reach too far afield into the international realm, going against the sovereign power of Sri Lanka and other courts that would (or at least should) have jurisdiction over these types of complaints.
Furthermore, how far is the United States able to take this? Financial and material support of a terrorist organization is a very broad statement and may cause issues with enforcement against individuals who are supporting terrorist organizations in ways that they would anyone else. For example, how about if a doctor that is part of doctors without borders helps a known terrorist leader overcome cancer? What if an accountant helps the terrorist organization with income statements and balance sheets? What if an architect builds a compound to house the terrorists? What if a landlord leases several warehouses to the terrorist organization? Would these all be considered material support? This is a slippery slope that the United States is treading and this country must be careful in exerting their power because they will upset the same people they are trying to protect.
Do you think the United States is exerting too much influence under the guise of security? Is the Alien Tort Statute contrary to international law and gives the United States too much power? Who should have jurisdiction and authority over such complaints?
Source: The American Lawyer