An editorial in today’s edition of the Washington Post calls for President Obama to veto the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) which reduces foreign sovereign immunity by allowing U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.
“A basic precept of international law is that sovereign nations, or their government officials, should not be liable for official actions in the civil courts of other sovereign nations,” the Washington Post writes. “Sovereign immunity has stood the test of time because it makes practical sense. And it makes practical sense because the international deeds and misdeeds of governments are more equitably dealt with through state-to-state negotiations than by hauling one country’s officials in front of the judges and juries of another.”
The Obama administration has already said it will veto the bill, after it passed the U.S. Senate this April and the U.S. House this month.
Since 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens, Saudi Arabia would likely be an immediate target of civil suits made possible by JASTA. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations have vehemently denounced the bill as contrary to the norms of international relations and some say the bill’s passing into law will hurt global efforts to combat terrorism.
Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, speaker of the Saudi Shura Council, recently criticized the bill as potentially, “triggering chaos and instability in international relations and might contribute to supporting extremism, which is under intellectual siege.”
With regard to counter terrorism efforts, this year, the Saudi Embassy in Washington released a 108 page briefing outlining the extent to which Saudi Arabia was fighting terrorism alongside the U.S. and European partners, and is making gains in clamping down terrorist financing originating in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has also made sweeping changes to its education system to combat extreme teaching in Saudi schools at home and abroad, the report stated.