Court of Appeals Finds TVPA, but not ATS, Applicable to Claims of Torture in Bangladesh

The World in U.S. Courts: Spring 2014 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS)/Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA)/Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA)

Chowdhury v. Worldtel Bangladesh Holding, Ltd., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, February 10, 2014

Plaintiffs and defendants are Bangladeshi citizens and companies, with the individual defendants having permanent residence status in the U.S. Following a commercial dispute, plaintiff Chowdhury alleged that, at the defendant’s instigation, he was detained and tortured by governmental units of Bangladesh. He sued the defendants in the U.S., alleging violations of the ATS and the TVPA. Following a trial, a jury found for Chowdhury. Among other issues on appeal was whether the jury’s verdict impermissibly applied the ATS and TVPA based on conduct occurring outside the U.S.

As to the ATS, the court, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel, found the ATS inapplicable to conduct outside the U.S., which included all of the conduct alleged in the case. As an alternative ground for dismissal, the court held that the ATS could not be applied to the corporate defendant, an issue that has divided courts in the U.S.

By contrast, the court found evidence that the U.S. Congress intended the TVPA to apply to conduct in other countries, and on that basis affirmed the jury’s verdict. The court also endorsed the principle that TVPA cases need not be brought by U.S. citizens.

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