70 F.3d 232 (2nd Cir. 1995), 1541, Kadic v. Karadzic

Docket Nº:1541, 1544, Dockets 94-9035, 94-9069.
Citation:70 F.3d 232
Party Name:S. KADIC, on her own behalf and on behalf of her infant sons Benjamin and Ognjen, Internationalna Iniciativa Zena Bosne I Hercegovine
Case Date:October 13, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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70 F.3d 232 (2nd Cir. 1995)

S. KADIC, on her own behalf and on behalf of her infant sons

Benjamin and Ognjen, Internationalna Iniciativa

Zena Bosne I Hercegovine "Biser," and

Zene Bosne I Hercegovine,



Radovan KARADZIC, Defendant-Appellee.

Jane DOE I, on behalf of herself and all others similarly

situated; and Jane Doe II, on behalf of herself and as

administratrix of the estate of her deceased mother, and on

behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,


Radovan KARADZIC, Defendant-Appellee.

Nos. 1541, 1544, Dockets 94-9035, 94-9069.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

October 13, 1995

Argued June 20, 1995.

Rehearing Denied Jan. 6, 1996.

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Beth Stephens, New York City (Matthew J. Chachere, Jennifer Green, Peter Weiss, Michael Ratner, Jules Lobel, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York City; Rhonda Copelon, Celina Romany, International Women's Human Rights Clinic, Flushing, NY; Judith Levin, International League of Human Rights, New York City; Harold Hongju Koh, Ronald C. Slye, Swati Agrawal, Bruce Brown, Charlotte Burrows, Carl Goldfarb, Linda Keller, Jon Levitsky, Daniyal

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Mueenuddin, Steve Parker, Maxwell S. Peltz, Amy Valley, Wendy Weiser, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, New Haven, CT, on the brief), for plaintiffs-appellants, Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II.

Catharine A. MacKinnon, Ann Arbor, MI (Martha F. Davis, Deborah A. Ellis, Yolanda S. Wu, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York City, on the brief), for plaintiffs-appellants Kadic, Internationalna Iniciativa Zena Bosne I Hercegovine, and Zena Bosne I Hercegovine.

Ramsey Clark, New York City (Lawrence W. Schilling, New York City, on the brief), for defendant-appellee.

Drew S. Days, III, Solicitor General, and Conrad K. Harper, Legal Adviser, Department of State, Washington, DC, submitted a Statement of Interest of the U.S.; Frank W. Hunger, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Douglas Letter, Appellate Litigation Counsel, on the brief.

Karen Honeycut, Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, New York, NY, submitted a brief for amici curiae Law Professors Frederick M. Abbott, et al.

Nancy Kelly, Women Refugee Project, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Program, Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, Cambridge, Mass., submitted a brief for amici curiae Alliances--an African Women's Network, et al.

Juan E. Mendez, Joanne Mariner, Washington, DC; Professor Ralph G. Steinhardt, George Washington University School of Law, Washington, DC; Paul L. Hoffman, Santa Monica, CA; Professor Joan Fitzpatrick, University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, WA, submitted a brief for amicus curiae Human Rights Watch.

Stephen M. Schneebaum, Washington, DC, submitted a brief for amici curiae The International Human Rights Law Group, et al.

Before: NEWMAN, Chief Judge, FEINBERG and WALKER, Circuit Judges.

JON O. NEWMAN, Chief Judge:

Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that victims of atrocities committed in Bosnia are suing the leader of the insurgent Bosnian-Serb forces in a United States District Court in Manhattan. Their claims seek to build upon the foundation of this Court's decision in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir.1980), which recognized the important principle that the venerable Alien Tort Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1350 (1988), enacted in 1789 but rarely invoked since then, validly creates federal court jurisdiction for suits alleging torts committed anywhere in the world against aliens in violation of the law of nations. The pending appeals pose additional significant issues as to the scope of the Alien Tort Act: whether some violations of the law of nations may be remedied when committed by those not acting under the authority of a state; if so, whether genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are among the violations that do not require state action; and whether a person, otherwise liable for a violation of the law of nations, is immune from service of process because he is present in the United States as an invitee of the United Nations.

These issues arise on appeals by two groups of plaintiffs-appellants from the November 19, 1994, judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Peter K. Leisure, Judge), dismissing, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, their suits against defendant-appellee Radovan Karadzic, President of the self-proclaimed Bosnian-Serb republic of "Srpska." Doe v. Karadzic, 866 F.Supp. 734 (S.D.N.Y.1994) ("Doe"). For the reasons set forth below, we hold that subject-matter jurisdiction exists, that Karadzic may be found liable for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in his private capacity and for other violations in his capacity as a state actor, and that he is not immune from service of process. We therefore reverse and remand.


The plaintiffs-appellants are Croat and Muslim citizens of the internationally recognized nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, formerly a republic of Yugoslavia. Their complaints, which we accept as true for purposes of this appeal, allege that they are victims, and representatives of victims, of various atrocities, including brutal acts of rape,

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forced prostitution, forced impregnation, torture, and summary execution, carried out by Bosnian-Serb military forces as part of a genocidal campaign conducted in the course of the Bosnian civil war. Karadzic, formerly a citizen of Yugoslavia and now a citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina, is the President of a three-man presidency of the self-proclaimed Bosnian-Serb republic within Bosnia-Herzegovina, sometimes referred to as "Srpska," which claims to exercise lawful authority, and does in fact exercise actual control, over large parts of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In his capacity as President, Karadzic possesses ultimate command authority over the Bosnian-Serb military forces, and the injuries perpetrated upon plaintiffs were committed as part of a pattern of systematic human rights violations that was directed by Karadzic and carried out by the military forces under his command. The complaints allege that Karadzic acted in an official capacity either as the titular head of Srpska or in collaboration with the government of the recognized nation of the former Yugoslavia and its dominant constituent republic, Serbia.

The two groups of plaintiffs asserted causes of action for genocide, rape, forced prostitution and impregnation, torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, assault and battery, sex and ethnic inequality, summary execution, and wrongful death. They sought compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and, in one of the cases, injunctive relief. Plaintiffs grounded subject-matter jurisdiction in the Alien Tort Act, the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 ("Torture Victim Act"), Pub.L. No. 102-256, 106 Stat. 73 (1992), codified at 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1350 note (Supp. V 1993), the general federal-question jurisdictional statute, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1331 (1988), and principles of supplemental jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1367 (Supp. V 1993).

In early 1993, Karadzic was admitted to the United States on three separate occasions as an invitee of the United Nations. According to affidavits submitted by the plaintiffs, Karadzic was personally served with the summons and complaint in each action during two of these visits while he was physically present in Manhattan. Karadzic admits that he received the summons and complaint in the Kadic action, but disputes whether the attempt to serve him personally in the Doe action was effective.

In the District Court, Karadzic moved for dismissal of both actions on the grounds of insufficient service of process, lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and nonjusticiability of plaintiffs' claims. However, Karadzic submitted a memorandum of law and supporting papers only on the issues of service of process and personal jurisdiction, while reserving the issues of subject-matter jurisdiction and nonjusticiability for further briefing, if necessary. The plaintiffs submitted papers responding only to the issues raised by the defendant.

Without notice or a hearing, the District Court by-passed the issues briefed by the parties and dismissed both actions for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In an Opinion and Order, reported at 866 F.Supp. 734, the District Judge preliminarily noted that the Court might be deprived of jurisdiction if the Executive Branch were to recognize Karadzic as the head of state of a friendly nation, see Lafontant v. Aristide, 844 F.Supp. 128 (E.D.N.Y.1994) (head-of-state immunity), and that this possibility could render the plaintiffs' pending claims requests for an advisory opinion. The District Judge recognized that this consideration was not dispositive but believed that it "militates against this Court exercising jurisdiction." Doe, 866 F.Supp. at 738.

Turning to the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Act, the Court concluded that "acts committed by non-state actors do not violate the law of nations," id. at 739. Finding that "[t]he current Bosnian-Serb warring military faction does not constitute a recognized state," id. at 741, and that "the members of Karadzic's faction do not act under the color of any recognized state law," id., the Court concluded that "the acts alleged in the instant action[s], while grossly repugnant, cannot be remedied through [the Alien Tort Act]," id. at 740-41. The Court did not consider the plaintiffs' alternative claim that Karadzic acted under color of law by acting in concert...

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