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
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
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
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.