Monday, July 16, 2007

"Dubai leaders ask judge to dismiss camel racing jockey lawsuit"

That's the headline from this AP article.

From the article, it looks like it was a very animated hearing:

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga did not indicate when she would rule but did ask a number of pointed questions, including whether she has authority over an issue involving people and events in several foreign countries but few ties to the United States.

"All of these claims should be entertained here?" she asked at one point. "None of the parties, none of the interests, none of the defendants are here."

The lawsuit filed last September asks for an unspecified amount of damages for young boys - primarily from Pakistan, Sudan, Mauritania and Bangladesh - who were forced to ride racing camels over a 30-year period in various Persian Gulf countries. The case was brought under a 218-year-old U.S. law known as the Alien Tort Statute, which provides federal courts with jurisdiction over certain civil cases involving foreigners.

But it wasn't easy for the Defendants either:

The Emirates have ended use of children as camel racing jockeys and set up a program with UNICEF to reunite them with their families and provide a range of social and educational services. Agreements between the Emirates and the four jockey source countries also envision creation of a compensation system funded by the Emirates.

Coles told Altonaga that the program is a better way than a lawsuit to address the problem. But the judge questioned whether that was adequate as a legal matter because the case targets the two sheikhs as individuals, rather than as heads of government.

"It doesn't make these individuals accountable in any way," Altonaga said of the jockey program.

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