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On 9/11 Anniversary, Schumer Announces ‘Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act’

Schumer Announces That His Legislation- JASTA- Will Allow Victims of 9/11 and Other Terrorist Acts to Sue Foreign Countries That Funded Terrorists Groups

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Washington, DC - September 11, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today, on the anniversary of September 11th, announced that the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (JASTA) has unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 18-0, and is now on its way to the full Senate. Earlier this month, Schumer stood with families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to announce that this legislation, which works to deter international terrorism and guarantee access to financial justice for those who have suffered at terrorists’ hands, would be considered today. This legislation 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. At Schumer’s urging, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Leahy agreed to consider JASTA today, on the anniversary of 9/11. Schumer will now rally for full Senate passage. 
Since the 9/11 attacks, some court decisions have improperly blocked terrorism-related claims that Congress intended to permit. Based on the rulings, without Schumer’s legislation, Americans may have no recourse against the foreign states and groups that sponsor terrorist attacks. Schumer said that JASTA, if passed into law, will finally help the victims of 9/11 achieve justice by allowing them to sue countries that fund terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda. JASTA would also allow a family member to sue those that fund ISIS, Hamas and other groups, should they kill an American in an act of terrorism.
“On the anniversary of the horrific September 11th attacks, there is no more appropriate day for us to consider and unanimously pass JASTA, which will help deliver a small measure of justice to the families that suffered so deeply thirteen years ago,” said Schumer.  “The ability of foreign entities that funded the terrorist attacks to get off scot free adds profound insult to the enormous injury that these families suffered that day and every day since. While we cannot bring back their lost loved ones, we have an obligation to do what is in our power to help them hold accountable those responsible for their losses; this legislation does just that. I’d like to thank the Chairman for bringing JASTA before the Committee and for offering his staunch support on this issue.”
Several court decisions since September 11th have improperly blocked terrorism-related claims that Congress intended to permit. For example, the second CircuitIn 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 and groups that sponsor such attacks.
JASTA allows terrorism victims, like victims of the September 11th attacks, the right to pursue foreign states and sponsors of 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 right to families of other American victims of terrorism, that have occurred since September 11, 2001. The bill also fixes a decision in the aforementioned court case that, paradoxically, interpreted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to limit recovery when those attacks occur on American soil.
The following is a summary of the bill:
  • First, JASTA amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSA) so that foreign sponsors of terrorism cannot invoke “sovereign immunity” in cases arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil.  
  • Second, JASTA amends the ATA so that civil suits against foreign sponsors of terrorism can be held accountable in U.S. courts where their conducts contributes to an attack that kills an American.