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Holding Private Military Contractors Accountable for Human Rights Violations: The Alien Torts Claims Act and the Quest for Regulation

By Dan Chapman, Dawn Furfaro, Sianna Plavin, and Janelle Peters

From the Authors: This paper, written for our International Human Rights Law class offered by the Peace Studies Department, represents two semesters of learning and research with an interdisciplinary approach to the law. We began learning about the U.S.' military industrial complex and the current challenges in holding corporations accountable for human rights violations during the fall semester of Human Rights (PCE 251)and decided to inquire more deeply into the issues in this course. The focus of our research was the Alien Torts Claims Act and its recent revival as a tool for holding military contractors responsible for violations of human rights. We sought not only to critique the existing system for addressing human rights violations perpetrated by military contractors, but also to propose changes that would transcend the traditional divisions between national and international legal systems. While we have no certain answers, we now have a much clearer picture of the current state of law pertaining to contractors and the many possibilities that exist for increasing accountability in the future. We are pleased that this paper was chosen for inclusion in the Verge, and remain grateful to each other and everyone who supported and encouraged us in the research and writing process.

From the Faculty Nominator: Dawn Furfaro, Dan Chapman, Janelle Peters and Sianna Plavin wrote "Holding Private Military Contractors Accountable for Human Rights Violations: The Alien Torts Claims Act and the Quest for Regulation," for PCE 310 – International Human Rights Law. The assignment was for groups of students to identify and research an issue that will poses serious legal challenges to the future of a statist human rights approach. In the previous semester in PCE 251 – Human Rights, members of the group had developed two annotated bibliographies on corporations and the military industrial complex, respectively. In the following semester, they were able to use that research as the foundation for a paper on how the human rights system, which is limited to claims by individuals against states, may be used to bring claims against private corporations.

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