Alien Tort Claims Act Law and Legal Definition

The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) was adopted in 1789 as part of the original Judiciary Act. It gave the federal courts jurisdiction to hear tort claims brought by foreigners who allege a violation of international law or a treaty to which the United States is a party. For almost two centuries, the statute lay relatively dormant, supporting jurisdiction in only a handful of cases. However, later it was invoked in several cases involving torture, disappearances, or killings committed by non-Americans in foreign countries. For example, in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980) the court held that deliberate torture perpetrated under the color of official authority violates universally accepted norms of international human rights law, and that such a violation of international law constitutes a violation of the domestic law of the United States, giving rise to a claim under the ATCA whenever the perpetrator is properly served within the borders of the United States. Alien Tort Claims Act is also known as Alien Tort Statute.