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Bush signs bill giving Libya immunity from existing lawsuits

[JURIST] US President George Bush on Monday signed [press release] into law the Libyan Claims Resolution Act [text], which allows the Secretary of State to settle remaining civil claims brought by US citizens against Libya for bombings allegedly carried out by groups linked to the government in the late 1980s. The bill is seen as an effort to improve relations between the two countries and would provide Libya immunity from civil suits brought against it for supporting terrorism, but would still require it to provide some compensation to the victims. The bill upholds settlements that some victims have already made with the country, but has been criticized by victims' advocates [press release] for invalidating an existing court decision [PDF text; JURIST report] that had ordered the Libyan government and six Libyan officials to pay more than $6 billion in damages [plaintiff press release] to families of those Americans who died in a 1989 air plane bombing [BBC backgrounder]. Reuters has more.

In May, the US and Libya agreed to seek resolution to the outstanding claims against the country after President Bush had already urged Congress [JURIST reports] to exempt the country from provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 [HR 4986 materials; JURIST report], which otherwise allows victims of state-sponsored terrorism to sue for that country's assets held in the US. In 2004, Bush lifted decades-old sanctions [JURIST report] against Libya after it agreed to dismantle its weapons programs and to acknowledge its history of state-sanctioned terror, including an agreement to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 bombing of Pam Am flight 103 [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and to compensate the victims' families.

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