Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


With the Supreme Court set to hear Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petrol. Co., a principal means of seeking redress for corporate complicity in egregious international law violations under the Alien Tort Statute hangs in the balance. This Article examines the doctrine of superior responsibility, otherwise known as command responsibility, as a functional theory of liability in filling some of the gaps potentially left by Kiobel or by adding another arrow to the quiver if the Supreme Court refuses to grant corporations immunity. The doctrine of superior responsibility imposes liability on superiors when they knew or should have known about their subordinates' violations of international law, but fail to prevent such acts or punish the perpetrators. After reviewing the application of criminal superior responsibility historically, this Article argues that Alien Tort Statute suits against individual corporate officers for international law violations as superiors will face a wide array of obstacles, allowing human rights victims to obtain civil remedies in only a very narrow set of circumstances.