Document Type


Publication Date



Unique and vital components of human culture and the environment are struggling for survival in the Amazon River basin. The rain forest of Amazonia is shared by indigenous peoples and an immensely diverse tropical flora and fauna. This unique culture and physical ecology, however, is threatened by transnational oil corporations which are irreparably devastating Amazonia and its native cultures through oil production activities.

The failure of public international law to address the post World War II emergence of transnational corporations (TNCs) as a major international force has been the subject of significant review by scholars and policy makers. TNCs, often unregulated in foreign host countries, have been free to extract natural resources through methods that would never be permitted in their home countries. Neither public international law not international agencies effectively manage the globally powerful TNCs.

Legal development in this area is, however, moving at a relatively rapid pace. Recent rulings in U.S. courts have gone beyond finding that human rights are part of the “law of nations” as customary international law, and have found that private actors may be subject of such claims by parties injured on foreign soil. This article maps out a context for international legal rights analysis in which the role played by transnational oil corporations in the “ethnocide” of indigenous groups can be reviewed.

Publication Citation

38 Va. J. Int'l L. 331 (1998).