05.17.16

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES PASSAGE OF JUSTICE AGAINST SPONSORS OF TERRORISM BILL – URGES HOUSE TO QUICKLY PASS LEGISLATION ALLOWING AMERICAN FAMILIES TO SEEK JUSTICE AFTER 9/11 ATTACKS

Past Court Decisions Have Hindered Terrorism-Related Claims From Victims of Attacks Like 9/11; People Injured in Terrorist Attacks on American Soil Have Limited Recourse Against Foreign States That Funded The Terror That Took Their Loved Ones Away 

Schumer Urges House to Quickly Follow Suit and Pass JASTA

Schumer: JASTA Will Right This Wrong & Allow American Families to Seek Justice

Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) today announced Senate passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and urged the House to quickly follow suit. Prior to its passage, Schumer called for unanimous consent to pass the bill on the Senate floor. The bill has been long sought-after by families of 9/11 in order to bring a small amount of justice for the loss of their loved ones, by allowing them to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism.  

Since the 9/11 attacks, some court decisions have improperly blocked terrorism-related claims that Congress intended to permit. Because of these rulings, without this legislation, Americans may have no recourse against the foreign states that sponsor terrorist attacks. JASTA will finally help the victims of 9/11 achieve justice by allowing them to sue countries that fund terrorist groups like Al Qaeda to commit terrorism on US soil.

“The ‘Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act’ is very near and dear to my heart as a New Yorker, because it would allow the victims of 9-11 to pursue some small measure of justice by giving them a legal avenue to hold foreign sponsors of terrorism on US soil accountable for their actions,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “JASTA is a long-overdue fix—a responsible, balanced fix—to a law that has extended too large a shield to foreign actors who finance and enable terrorism on a massive scale. The victims of 9-11 and other terrorist attacks have suffered such pain and heartache, but they should not be denied justice and so, I will fight hard in Congress until the House passes this bill and it is signed into law.”

Several court decisions since September 11th have improperly blocked terrorism-related claims that Congress intended to permit. For example, the second Circuit In re Terrorist Attacks of September 11th, 2001, has held that sovereign immunity protected foreign government “charities” from 9/11 victims’ claims regarding support for those attacks and that aiding and abetting theories are unavailable under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991 (ATA). That court further ruled that terror victims pursing ATA claims must satisfy a strict proximate causation test. As current law stands, the families of Americans who were injured or killed in terrorist attacks, like those who were tragically struck on September 11th, 2001, may have no recourse against the foreign states that sponsor such attacks.

JASTA allows terrorism victims, like victims of the September 11th attacks, the opportunity to pursue foreign states who sponsor terrorism in federal court. The bill allows Americans to direct financial damage claims against those who funded the attacks. The legislation would also afford this opportunity to families of other victims of terrorism on US soil that occurred after September 11, 2001.

The legislation also includes an important new tool for the Executive Branch to stay litigation – including related cases, not against the foreign state itself – if the government certifies that it is involved in good faith discussions to resolve the matter. This stay can be extended.

The following is a summary of the bill:

  • First, JASTA amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) so that foreign sponsors of terrorism cannot invoke “sovereign immunity” in cases arising from a terrorist attack that kills someone on American soil.  
  • Second, JASTA amends the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) so that civil suits against foreign sponsors of terrorism can be held accountable in U.S. courts where their conduct materially supports an attack that kills an American.

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