[JURIST] The US Congress [official website] on Wednesday overrode US President Barrack Obama’s [official website] veto of a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. Obama vetoed [JURIST report] the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) [text] last Friday, stating that such a bill violates international standards of foreign sovereign immunity and may set a dangerous precedent for allowing the US to be held liable by foreign private courts. Obama has stated [Guardian report] that, though voting against the bill may appear to be a vote against 9/11 families, the decision is necessary to uphold US national interests. Nevertheless Congress voted overwhelmingly against Obama’s veto, with the Senate voting 97-1 and the House voting 348-77. Supporters of the bill have argued that such a bill gives terrorist victims their day in court and only holds sovereign nations liable should they have any responsibility for a terrorist attack inside US borders. This is the first veto overridden during Obama’s presidency. Obama and White House representatives responded to the decision with disappointment.
The White House Press Secretary Paul Earnest announced earlier this month that Obama intended to veto the bill, shortly after the bill was approved [JURIST reports] by the US House of Representatives. The Act was approved [JURIST report] by the Senate in May. In 2012 a US District judge dismissed a motion [JURIST report] to reinstate Saudi Arabia as a defendant in a civil compensation lawsuit by victims against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The claim against Saudi Arabia was dismissed in 2008 by a US Appeals Court due to insufficient evidence that the Kingdom’s princes has actual knowledge that their money was going to be used in the attacks. In 2005 Judge Richard Casey dismissed [JURIST report] Saudi Arabia, its defense minister and its ambassador to the UK as defendants in litigation stemming from the terrorist attacks, ruling that all had sovereign immunity [Cornell LII backgrounder].