Chicago Journal of International Law


State-to-state enforcement is the paradigmatic method of punishing a state's violations of public international law. However, in the face of international political complexities, private citizens must sometimes undertake the heavy task of ensuring international legal protection for themselves. The recent situation in Sudan is one such example. Because of the need for Sudan's help in the war against terrorism, the United States is temporarily unable to pursue the usual means of enforcing anti- slavery mandates against Sudan's Khartoum government. A group of private citizens has thus decided to make an attempt at reparation by striking at a private entity that it sees as central to the evils it has endured-a Canadian oil company. Might this type of private enforcement prove successful on a large scale in combating entrenched human rights violators, untouchable by traditional government action? To what extent should private citizens be enforcers of international law? Were they envisioned as such under the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("UDHR"), and other such documents? This development will illustrate how private enforcement-though perhaps nontraditional-may be one of the most successful methods of ensuring compliance with human rights laws, especially in the midst of international political pressures. And though it may seem a functionally dangerous practice to invite large-scale private litigation in politically tenuous times, private enforcement of international rights norms has long been contemplated by the Alien Tort Claims Act ("ATCA"), and more recently, the Torture Victims Protection Act ("TVPA"). Although the UN Charter and the UDHR do not provide private causes of action, more recently adopted instruments, such as the TVPA, reflect the modern need for greater flexibility in methods of international legal enforcement. In the Sudan, private enforcement may be the only way for private citizens subjected to slavery to achieve any sort of remuneration, at least as long as the United States continues to need the assistance of the Sudanese government. [CONT]