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Historical Justice Claims

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Chapter Summary

This chapter offers a brief introduction to the unique obstacles presented by historical justice claims. First, plaintiffs must show standing to sue, if they sue on behalf of their deceased ancestors. Second, the statute of limitations will generally bar claims unless plaintiffs can justify application of the equitable tolling doctrine. Third, the fact that most of the historical justice claims involve actions of the U.S. and foreign governments triggers several complicated defenses. Claims against foreign governments must overcome foreign sovereign immunity. In addition, the U.S. government often intervenes successfully to argue that the political question doctrine renders the case non-justiciable because litigation would interfere with a recent or historic diplomatic agreement or would undermine U.S. foreign policy. The demand for justice in many of these cases resonates with the public, offering the possibility of favorable settlement agreements for the victims of past atrocities and their heirs.

Keywords: foreign sovereign immunity; historical justice claims; political question doctrine



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