MAAS welcomes the US Supreme Court’s Decision to Hear the Case Challenging World Bank Group Immunity
This will be the first time the US Supreme Court will address the scope of international organisations’ immunity.
May 21, 2018, Mundra, Gujarat: Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS) and the affected communities by the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Project welcomes the historic decision of the US supreme court to hear the landmark lawsuit which challenged the immunity of powerful institutions like the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group.
“This is a victory of our relentless struggle to bring to justice the crimes committed by the Tata against the fishing community. The IFC aided the process by turning a blind eye to it,” said Dr Bharat Patel General Secretary, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, one of the petitioners in the case.
The case, Jam v. IFC
, brought by fishermen and farmers affected by IFC-funded Tata’s Mundra Ultra Mega Project challenged the absolute immunity enjoyed so far by international organisations like IFC.
“International organizations like the IFC are not above the law and must be held accountable when their projects harm communities. The notion of ‘absolute immunity’ is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, and it is contrary to the IFC’s own mission as an anti-poverty institution. We are glad the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case and hope it will correct this error,” said Richard Herz, Senior Litigation Attorney at EarthRights International (ERI).
The Supreme Court’s decision to hear their case means that it will consider international organisation immunity for the first time, and decide whether international organisations can be held accountable for their harmful conduct, or whether they enjoy the special status above the law that they claim.
Budha Jam, the main petitioner, said that “This decision on this case will be keenly awaited by not only by us but by the communities from across the world which are fighting the crimes of the international financial institutions in the name of promoting development. I am hopeful that the US Supreme Court will not let us down.”
International organisations like the IFC have long claimed they are entitled to “absolute” immunity from suit – an immunity far greater than any person, government, or entity enjoys – no matter how illegal their actions are or how much harm they cause.
“It is the time to start holding international financial institutions accountable. In this time and age when the human rights and accountability discourse has travelled far and wide, hiding behind the immunity clause is contrary to the “right to seeking justice” and “rights to remedy” of the communities,” added Patel.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled
that IFC had “absolute immunity” and could not be sued for its role in the controversial Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant that has devastated communities in Gujarat. The D.C. Circuit recognised the “dismal” situation the plant has created for the complainants, including the destruction of their livelihoods and property and the serious threats to their health, and noted that the IFC had not denied those harms. The court found the IFC could not be sued based on prior D.C. Circuit decisions. One of the judges, however, expressed strong disagreement with IFC immunity and noted that another federal court had rejected the prior D.C. Circuit immunity cases, which she thought were “wrongly decided.”
“When at a time we thought that all doors for justice seemed closed, with this decision our faith in the judicial system is restored,” said Gajendrasinh Jadeja, head of a local village that is also a petitioner in the case.
Dr Bharat Patel (Mundra, Gujarat)
General Secretary, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan
+ 91 94264 69803