By Agence France-Presse

Monday, October 1, 2012 21:11 EDT

WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court began its new session on Monday by re-examining an explosive international case alleging that oil giant Shell was complicit in acts of torture by the Nigerian government.

Fresh from their pivotal decision in June to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the nine Supreme Court justices took up a case with enormously important ramifications for international human rights.

The legal argument pivots on whether foreign plaintiffs have a right to file suit in American courts against US corporations accused of human rights violations, under an arcane 200-year-old statute.

In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, the oil giant is accused of being an accomplice to torture, extrajudicial executions and crimes against humanity by the Nigerian government between 1992 and 1995 in the Niger Delta region.

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