Daily Management Review

Bill Allowing 9/11 Victims to Sue Saudi Arabia Passed in US Senate


Setting up a potential showdown with the White House, which has threatened a veto,  the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia's government for damages.
There have been strong objections to the bill from the Saudis who deny responsibility for the 2001 attacks. In retaliation of the bill and if it becomes a law, Saudi Arabia has threatened that they might sell up to $750 billion in U.S. securities and other American assets.
The Senate passed the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" by unanimous voice vote. The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives intends to hold a hearing on the measure in the near future where the proposed bill is to taken up next.
Countries found to be involved in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil would lose the sovereign immunity, preventing lawsuits against governments is the bill – JASTA, became law. The passing of the bill and it becoming a law would allow seeking of damages from other countries by the survivors of the attacks and relatives of those killed in the attacks.
As lawyers try to prove that the Saudis were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, JASTA would allow lawsuits to proceed in federal court in New York in this case.
His country's objection to the bill is based on principles of international relations, said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir.
"What (Congress is) doing is stripping the principle of sovereign immunities which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle," he said in a statement.
The bill is expected to be passed in the House and become a law, said James Kreindler, a prominent trial lawyer who represents 9/11 families and won large payouts for the victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan American Airways Flight 103 over Scotland.
"It would be crazy for (President Barack) Obama to veto bipartisan legislation (which would) open (U.S.) courts to victims of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history," Kreindler said.
The bill was termed as over due by Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and a JASTA co-sponsor.
"Today the Senate has spoken loudly and unanimously that the families of victims of terrorist attacks should be able to hold the perpetrators, even if it's a country, a nation, accountable," Schumer told a news conference.
While alluding to a still-classified section of a report on the Sept. 11 attacks that Saudi critics say might implicate Riyadh, Republican Senator John Cornyn, also a sponsor of the bill, said JASTA does not target the Saudis.
"We have yet to see the 28 pages that have not been yet released about the 9/11 report, and that may well be instructive," Cornyn said at the news conference.
Resealing the report would quiet such rumors, say other lawmakers who have seen the 28 pages.
"I don't believe that this will be destructive of the relationship that we have with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Cornyn said adding that it was up to the court to decide whether the Saudis were liable.
The White House however said that Obama still wants to veto JASTA.
"This legislation would change long-standing, international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the president of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a daily press briefing.