The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) of 1789 grants jurisdiction to US Federal Courts over "any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." In 1980 a Paraguayan man successfully used ATCA to sue the policeman who had tortured his son to death in Paraguay. Others have since filed civil suits against individuals, including Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, seeking compensation for damages resulting from breaches of international law. On the rare occassion that a suit is successful, however, the defendant rarely has sufficient assets in the US to satisfy the final judgment.
An interesting development has been the recent efforts to use ATCA to sue transnational corporations for violations of international law in countries outside the US. If these suits are allowed to proceed, then ATCA could become a powerful tool to increase corporate accountability.
[Global Policy Forum - International Justice]