Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

by
Jabateh was a rebel commander during the Liberian civil war. He later fled to the United States seeking asylum. His conduct in Liberia, characterized by brazen violence and wanton atrocities, made honest immigration application impossible. He concealed his crimes and portrayed himself as a persecuted victim. Jabateh’s fraud succeeded for almost 20 years.In 2016, Jabateh was charged with the fraud in his immigration documents, 18 U.S.C. 1546(a) and perjury, 18 U.S.C. 1621. The five-year limitations period for misconduct related to Jabateh's 2001 application for permanent residency had passed, leaving only Jabateh’s oral responses in a 2011 Interview affirming his answer of “no” to questions related to genocide and misrepresentations during his immigration applications. The district court noted “the force of the prosecution’s trial evidence,” establishing that Jabateh personally committed or ordered his troops to commit murder, enslavement, rape, and torture “because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion.”The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and to Jabateh’s 360-month sentence. The court acknowledged that section 1546(a) criminalizes fraud in immigration documents and that Jabateh was not charged with fraud in his immigration documents, only with orally lying about those documents. Jabateh, however, failed to raise this argument at trial. “Given the novelty of the interpretative question, and the lack of persuasive" guidance, the court declined to hold that this reading of section 1546(a) meets the stringent standards for “plain error” reversal. View "United States v. Jabateh" on Justia Law

by
The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
Global filed suit against Bachosa in district court after Bachosa fell behind on its payments on two contracts. The district court dismissed Global's claims for lack of personal jurisdiction and denied as moot Bachosa's motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens.The Ninth Circuit held that the district court had personal jurisdiction over both the corporate and individual defendants and that litigation in the Eastern District of California would not result in disproportionate inconvenience. In this case, Bachosa maintained numerous contacts with California during the course of its years-long business relationship with Global. Furthermore, those contacts gave rise to this dispute, and it was reasonable for Bachosa to expect that it would be haled into court in California to fulfill its obligations and to account for harm it foreseeably caused there. In regard to the individual defendants, the district court had specific personal jurisdiction over them based on Global's claims in its initial complaint. Finally, the panel exercised its discretion to reach the issue of dismissal based on forum non conveniens, and held that the balance of private and public interest factors did not favor dismissal. Moreover, California law will likely govern key issues and any burdens on the foreign defendant are insufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of Global's choice of its home forum. Therefore, the panel reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions to deny the forum non conveniens motion on the merits. View "Global Commodities Trading Group, Inc. v. Beneficio De Arroz Choloma, S.A." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability (COA) allowing petitioner to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Petitioner's motion asserted that a report issued on August 12, 2020, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which concluded that petitioner's trial and sentence violated his rights under the American Declaration, requires that his death sentence be vacated, that he must be released or given a new trial, and that he cannot be sentenced to death after a new trial.The panel held that reasonable jurists would not find debatable the district court's conclusion that the IACHR's decision is not binding in federal court. In this case, the district court concluded that IACHR rulings do not have binding power within the United States by virtue of the Organization of American States (OAS) Charter because the OAS Charter is not self-executing, and Congress has passed no statute to implement it. Furthermore, the district court rejected petitioner's argument that IACHR decisions are binding because they are derived, through the OAS Charter, from the American Declaration on the ground that the American Declaration is not a treaty and creates no binding set of obligations. View "Mitchell v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In April 2014, a pregnant Bogdana Alexandrovna Osipova took her young son and daughter to Russia, leaving behind ongoing divorce proceedings in Kansas. By doing so, Osipova deprived Brian Mobley, her soon-to-be ex-husband and the father of her daughter and unborn child, of his joint-custody rights under the Kansas court’s temporary custodial order. In Russia, Osipova gave birth to a girl and instituted her own divorce proceedings. The Russian court ordered Mobley to pay monthly child support. But by then the Kansas court had already awarded Mobley full custody of their two daughters, and he steadfastly refused Osipova’s requests that he pay the Russian court-ordered child support. Eventually, in September 2017, Osipova returned alone to the United States on an ill-fated quest to modify the Kansas order. The FBI promptly arrested Osipova, and she was incarcerated for international parental kidnapping and extortionate interstate communications. A jury sentenced Osipova to the statutory maximum three years on the parental-kidnapping conviction, and to seven years on each extortionate-communications convictions, all to run concurrently. On appeal, Osipova argued the federal district judge should have dismissed the indictment and recused himself from her sentencing. Osipova also argued that insufficient evidence supports her 18 U.S.C. 875(b) convictions and that the court erred by awarding Mobley restitution for attorney’s fees he incurred attempting to obtain physical custody of their two daughters. The Tenth Circuit rejected Osipova's dismissal and recusal arguments, but concurred that insufficient evidence supported the extortionate communications charges. Further, the restitution order was unauthorized by law. The latter part of the trial court's judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Mobley" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for the return of a child to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Petitioner is the child's paternal half-sister and respondent is the child's maternal grandmother, who has been raising the child in Las Vegas, Nevada since 2017.In this case, the district court clearly erred in its factual finding regarding the date of removal, which was August 25, 2017. Furthermore, respondent's removal of the child was wrongful because it breached the Mexican court's rights of custody. Because the petition was filed more than one year after the date of wrongful removal, the district court had discretion to decline to order the return of the child. Because petitioner does not appeal the district court's findings that the child is now settled in Las Vegas, nor does petitioner argue that the district court abused its discretion in declining to order return, the panel affirmed the district court's discretionary decision not to order the return of the child pending custody proceedings. View "Flores Castro v. Hernandez Renteria" on Justia Law

by
The parties to this appeal were a Bolivian company, Compania de Inversiones Mercantiles S.A. (“CIMSA”), and Mexican companies known as Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, S.A.B. de C.V. and GCC Latinoamerica, S.A. de C.V. (collectively “GCC”). Plaintiff-appellant CIMSA brought a district court action pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act to confirm a foreign arbitral award issued in Bolivia against Defendant-appellee GCC. The underlying dispute stemmed from an agreement under which CIMSA and GCC arranged to give each other a right of first refusal if either party decided to sell its shares in a Bolivian cement company known as Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento, S.A. (“SOBOCE”). GCC sold its SOBOCE shares to a third party after taking the position that CIMSA failed to properly exercise its right of first refusal. In 2011, CIMSA initiated an arbitration proceeding in Bolivia. The arbitration tribunal determined that GCC violated the contract and the parties’ expectations. GCC then initiated Bolivian and Mexican court actions to challenge the arbitration tribunal’s decisions. A Bolivian trial judge rejected GCC’s challenge to the arbitration tribunal’s decision on the merits. A Bolivian appellate court reversed and remanded. During the pendency of the remand proceedings, Bolivia’s highest court reversed the appellate court and affirmed the original trial judge. But as a result of the simultaneous remand proceedings, the high court also issued arguably contradictory orders suggesting the second trial judge’s ruling on the merits remained in effect. GCC filed a separate Bolivian court action challenging the arbitration tribunal’s damages award. That case made its way to Bolivia’s highest court too, which reversed an intermediate appellate court’s nullification of the award and remanded for further proceedings. Invoking the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, CIMSA filed a confirmation action in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. After encountering difficulties with conventional service of process in Mexico under the Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, CIMSA sought and received permission from the district court to serve GCC through its American counsel pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3). The district court then rejected GCC’s challenges to personal jurisdiction, holding (among other things) that: (1) it was appropriate to aggregate GCC’s contacts with the United States; (2) CIMSA’s injury arose out of GCC’s contacts; (3) exercising jurisdiction was consistent with fair play and substantial justice; and (4) alternative service was proper. The district court rejected GCC's defenses to CIMSA's claim under the New York Convention. Before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court affirmed the district court: the district court properly determined that CIMSA’s injury arose out of or related to GCC’s nationwide contacts. "The district court correctly decided that exercising personal jurisdiction over GCC comported with fair play and substantial justice because CIMSA established minimum contacts and GCC did not make a compelling case to the contrary." The Court also affirmed the district court's confirmation of the arbitration tribunal's decisions. View "Compania De Inversiones v. Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, relatives of eight Bolivian civilians killed in 2003 during a period of civil crisis in Bolivia, filed suit under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) against the former President of Bolivia and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for the extrajudicial killings and wrongful deaths of their family members based on their alleged conduct in perpetuating the crisis. After the jury rendered its verdict, the district court granted defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the TVPA claims.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court conflated the standard for an extrajudicial killing with the theory of liability tying defendants to the decedents' deaths. The court also held that the evidence of deaths caused by a soldier acting under orders to use excessive or indiscriminate force could provide a legally sufficient foundation to support a TVPA claim. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine, in the first instance and under the correct standard, whether plaintiffs put forth sufficient evidence to show that the deaths were extrajudicial killings, and, if so, whether there is sufficient evidence to hold defendants liable for such killings under the command-responsibility doctrine. In regard to the wrongful-death claims, the court held that the district court erroneously admitted the State Department cables. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for a new trial on the wrongful-death claims. View "Rojas Mamani v. Sanchez De Lozada Sanchez Bustamante" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit as shareholders on behalf of Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), alleging that defendants used LCB to facilitate a money-laundering scheme benefiting Hezbollah. Plaintiffs contend that defendants' conduct violated an actionable norm of international law that confers a cause of action on them over which the federal courts have jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The district court held that the prohibition against financing terrorism is a universal, specific, and obligatory norm of international law, and allowed plaintiffs to proceed with their suit.The Second Circuit reversed and held that plaintiffs' effort to amend their complaint is futile, because – even if "financing terrorism" violates a universal, specific, and obligatory norm of international law – their cause of action is based on harm that falls outside the scope of any such norm. In this case, plaintiffs' economic harm is disconnected from the risks that would bring the financing of terrorism within the purview of international law, and the ATS does not confer federal jurisdiction over the alleged violations of corporate law principles that ground plaintiffs' claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Abu Nahl v. Abou Jaoude" on Justia Law

by
TIG filed an emergency motion for attachment-related relief and a writ of execution, seeking to satisfy a long-pending judgment by attaching a building that the Republic of Argentina listed for sale in the District of Columbia. After Argentina removed the property from the market, the district court concluded that the property was immune from execution because Argentina's removal meant that the property would not be "used for a commercial activity" at the time the writ would issue.The DC Circuit held that whether a property is "used for a commercial activity" depends on the totality of the circumstances existing when the motion for a writ of attachment is filed, not when the writ would issue. Therefore, the district court applied the incorrect legal standard in this case. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether, at the time of filing, the totality of the circumstances supported characterizing the property at issue as one "used for a commercial activity" and, if so, whether any of Argentina's other defenses bar attachment of its property. View "TIG Insurance Co. v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law