On April 18, 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the
Although the act defines torture and extrajudicial killing, the definition of an "individual" in the statute was uncertain. Therefore, the various courts of appeals diverged in their construction of the statute. According to the Supreme Court, "the ordinary meaning of the word, fortified by its statutory context, persuades us that the Act authorizes suit against natural persons alone." As a result, it determined the term "individual" to mean an individual natural person.
The case brought before the court, Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, docket number 11-88, involves a suit filed under the TVPA against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Authority by the family of Azzam Rahim, a Palestinian American killed during a visit to the West Bank in 1995. According to his family, Rahim was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and eventually killed by Palestinian Authority officers.
The United States District Court had dismissed the suit and the Supreme Court affirmed the decision by stating that, "the text of the TVPA convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not." -- Linda Dryden, legal assistant, Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP, Washington, DC.