[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Friday vetoed [press release] a bill that would have allowed 9/11 victims and their families to sue Saudi Arabia, citing concerns that it would open US diplomats and servicemen to suit abroad. Congress overwhelmingly approved the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) [text] earlier this year, with support from both parties for the bill that would allow federal suits against foreign nations determined to have had a hand in terror acts. In rejecting the law, Obama stated:
I have deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), who have suffered grievously. I also have a deep appreciation of these families’ desire to pursue justice and am strongly committed to assisting them in their efforts. … First, [I cannot sign the bill because] JASTA threatens to reduce the effectiveness of our response to indications that a foreign government has taken steps outside our borders to provide support for terrorism, by taking such matters out of the hands of national security and foreign policy professionals and placing them in the hands of private litigants and courts. … Second, JASTA would upset longstanding international principles regarding sovereign immunity, putting in place rules that, if applied globally, could have serious implications for U.S. national interests.
Both major presidential candidates criticized Obama’s veto decision that put him at odds with Congress, which is expected to overrule his veto in the near future.
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].