Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic
726 F.2d 774 (1984)

  • The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) launched an attack in Israel, killing a number of people.
    • Most of the victims were Israeli, although a few were US citizens.
  • The victims filed suit in a US Court for damages.
    • The victims claimed that they had a cause of action under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) (28 U.S.C. 1350) which provides that the "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or of a treaty of the United States."
    • The victims also based their case on the recently decided Filartiga v. Pena-Irala (630 F.2d 876 (1980)).
  • The Trial Court dismissed the claim. The victims appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that they lacked jurisdiction to hear claims based on torts committed in Israel.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that in order to bring suit, there must be an explicit cause of action before a private plaintiff be allowed to enforce principles of international law in a US Court.
      • The Court found that the ATS by itself did not provide a cause of action.
  • In response to this decision, Congress passes the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) that provides that an individual who, under actual or apparent authority, or color of law, of any foreign nation, subjects an individual to torture or extrajudicial killing shall be liable in a civil action to that individual or the individual's legal representative.
    • In addition, other Federal Courts disagreed with this decision, and followed the precedent in Filartiga that the ATS provides a cause of action.