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Can Egypt's Telecom Giants Be Sued In the US? 105

Posted by timothy
from the those-phones-really-tied-the-room-together dept.
bedouin writes "In April, the Egyptian Centre for Housing Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of other plaintiffs against the three telecommunications companies (and a number of current and former Egyptian officials) seeking compensation for the damages they suffered due to the shutdown of communications. The case is ongoing. An interesting question is whether any of these companies could also be sued in US courts."
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Can Egypt's Telecom Giants Be Sued In the US?

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  • Blah. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @05:42AM (#36237096) Homepage
    This is just "activists" taking the easiest path instead of a path that's actually challenging. It's easy to sue anyone in America, and the insane American legal system is feared worldwide.

    Let's put the shoe on the other foot, shall we? Suppose you received a summons from the Intermediate People's Court of Zhengjiang County, China. A Chinese person is suing you because you supplied parts that were assembled into buses that police used to arrive at the scene of a civil disturbance, where the plaintiff was unlawfully injured (by unlawfully, I mean under Chinese law). Suing the local government is right out, so they sued you instead. What would you say to this? (A) Oh boy, this is serious, I had better go to this country, hire a lawyer, and spend a couple of months in-country fighting these charges to clear my name. (B) What the hell authority does some foreign court have over me? I've never been there and I'm never going there.

    Oh, and if an American company had refused to comply with the cutoff order, it would be cultural imperialism and interfering with the internal affairs of another country. We can't impose our (false) values of "freedom" on other cultures, remember?

  • Re:They can (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cappp (1822388) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @06:45AM (#36237306)
    Obtaining justice in their own system is likely to be really, really hard. I don't know for certain but I would imagine that in Egyptian Law the telecom companies would be able to successfully argue that they were merely following governmental orders, and the government will claim some kind of perogative to act - probably grounded in some kind of martial law rights. The problem is that the law as it stood both reflected and enable a specifically ordered power structure - the law would give deference to the government in many areas.

    So you're stuck with the hope that the law would be adapted, a process that takes a lot of time and negotiation, and protections for civil society added. Problem - a lot of states forbid ex post facto prosecution. Egypt is a signatory to the Arab Charter on Human Rights which specifically states [umn.edu] that

    o crime and no penalty can be established without a prior provision of the law. In all circumstances, the law most favorable to the defendant shall be applied.

    . So the only option is likely to be appeals to international courts. Using the courts as they stand in Egypt is likely to be futile at present, and in the future they'll be unable to claim for injuries suffered prior to the adoption of new laws. It's a difficult situation to be in.

    Moreover, there's a lot of reasons to make an international case here - and most of them are rooted in good ol' money and politics.

  • Re:Blah. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pinkushun (1467193) * on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @07:04AM (#36237362) Journal

    There is a bigger picture involved.

    During the Egyptian revolution the telecom companies, instead of supporting the people, complied with and acted upon the requests of a tyrannical leader to shut down internet access, in an attempt to silence the people. [1]

    They also complied to send out pro-government, anti-democracy [2] mobile text messages [3].

    Don't buy Vodafone's excuse, they abide to a mad man's "emergency laws", while the people and journalists risked life and limb to have their voice heard. Vodafone agreed to his terms, a guy who is now facing the death penalty under charge or premeditated murder against civilians[5], and need to grow a pair.

    And do you know why?
    "Its not clear who paid for the messages which could amount to hundred of thousands of dollars worth of messaging."

    [1] http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/01/2011128796164380.html [aljazeera.net]
    [2] http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=133349 [businessday.co.za]
    [3] http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/02/03/unsolicited-pro-mubarak-text-messages-from-egypt/ [liberalconspiracy.org]
    [4] http://www.renesys.com/blog/2011/01/egypt-leaves-the-internet.shtml [renesys.com]
    [5] http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/24/us-egypt-mubarak-idUSTRE74N3LG20110524 [reuters.com]

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @09:03AM (#36237950)
    You know you post this as if this is unique to the U.S.. The only difference between the U.S. doing this and most other countries is that the U.S. is able to make it stick in more places than most other countries.

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch

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