The following blog post, originally posted on, was written by our Legal Advisory Committee member Katie Redford. The post is a part of Blog Action Day, an annual event aimed at uniting bloggers around a common theme, this year’s theme being human rights. For a full list of our new Legal Advisory Committee with brief bios for each member, click here.

Every day, human rights defenders around the world risk their lives to stand up against injustice. Whether investigating government abuse in Syria or Russia, or exposing corporate abuse in Nigeria or Ecuador, brave individuals everywhere depend on fundamental rights of free speech to do their work. The United States has always celebrated such rights as vital to our democracy—after all, there is a reason that the First Amendment came first. Yet recent trends, bolstered by a series of federal and Supreme Court cases, have privileged the free speech rights of corporations while silencing the living, breathing human beings that need those rights most.

It’s certainly no news that today’s corporations enjoy unprecedented global power. Likewise, the corporate lobby’s campaign to stifle human rights activism has been steadily increasing. Since Citizens United, which extended First Amendment rights to corporations as “persons”, we’ve seen bold legal arguments against laws and regulations that would hold them accountable to fundamental human rights law. This year, for example, the Supreme Court held in Kiobel v. Shell that Nigerian survivors of torture and crimes against humanity could not seek justice against Shell in U.S. Courts. The “mere corporate presence” of Shell in the U.S. was not enough for the Court to allow the plaintiffs—lawful residents of the U.S.—to bring their case. Courtroom doors that have been open to the world’s powerless for over 30 years are now closing thanks to a concerted effort by the most powerful.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could push this dangerous precedent even further. Largely outside the radar of the human rights community, DaimlerChrysler AG v. Bauman arises out of the company’s alleged participation in targeting labor activists in Argentina’s Dirty War, a period of terror that involved the murder, torture and disappearances of thousands of activists and political dissidents. The allegations are chilling: Mercedes-Benz Argentina identified workers within its plant as “subversives” to state security forces, knowing full well that, as a result, those workers would be abducted, tortured, murdered or “disappeared”. Equally chilling is the prospect that the Supreme Court will enshrine corporate rights over human rights in law once again. Like Shell in Kiobel, the question is whether the German company is legally present in the U.S. for purposes of jurisdiction. Daimler says that it has a constitutional right to be treated separate from its subsidiaries. Where that right exists in the constitution is up to anyone’s imagination.

Read the full blog post here.