Grassley Leads Call for Court to Protect Victims of International Terrorism
Apr 11, 2017
22 Senators Join Grassley’s Brief Urging Supreme Court’s Review of Antiterrorism Act Case
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley led 22 Senate colleagues in calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision undermining the ability of U.S. victims of international terrorism to seek justice. The appeals court’s decision effectively nullified the Antiterrorism Act of 1992, a law passed by Congress—and championed by Grassley—specifically to protect Americans abroad and to provide victims with a tool to bring terrorists to justice in U.S. courts.
“Twenty-five years ago, I led the Senate’s effort to improve justice for Americans victimized by acts of terrorism abroad. By passing the Antiterrorism Act, Congress’s intent was clear: U.S. victims of international terrorism should be able to seek justice in U.S. courts against those responsible, no matter where the attacks occurred. The 2nd Circuit’s decision disregarded the central purpose of the Antiterrorism Act, and could leave U.S. victims of terror abroad without important tools to seek justice. The Supreme Court should review this case and restore Congress’ action to hold terrorists accountable,” Grassley said.
The case, Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, involves U.S. victims of terrorist attacks occurring in Israel in the early 2000s. In 2004, the victims sued the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) under the Antiterrorism Act to recover damages. In 2015, after more than a decade of pre-trial litigation, a unanimous jury awarded $655 million to the victims, finding that officers of the PA perpetrated several of the attacks and that the PLO and PA provided support to terrorist organizations involved in the attacks. On appeal, however, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s verdict, reasoning that the PLO and PA are protected from U.S. court jurisdiction in the suit because the attacks “were not sufficiently connected to the United States” and were not “specifically targeted against United States citizens.”
The Antiterrorism Act, however, was designed to address the very situation at issue in Sokolow: acts of international terrorism that harm U.S. citizens. In 1992, Congress passed the Antiterrorism Act, which Grassley championed, establishing that federal court jurisdiction over acts of international terrorism advances U.S. interests by providing justice when attacks occur and deterring future attacks by penalizing perpetrators and their associates. The bipartisan amicus brief argues that the national security and separation of powers issues presented by the case warrant the Supreme Court’s review.
Joining Grassley on the brief were senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Calif.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and James Risch (R-Idaho).
The brief can be found here.