The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia [official website] has condemned [press release] the passage of the 9/11 bill [JURIST report], called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) [bill, text], that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to fie civil suits for damages against the country. Pointing out that US’ own top leaders, including President Barack Obama [official website], the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of the CIA, opposed JASTA in its current form, the Ministry stated that “the enactment of JASTA is of great concern to the community of nations that object to the erosion of the principle of sovereign immunity, which has governed international relations for hundreds of years.” The Ministry also pointed out that JASTA has been publicly opposed by many nations around the world and American national security experts who have recognized the dangers that the bill represents. The Ministry expressed hope that Congress will take the necessary steps to reconsider the bill and correct it to avoid the serious unintended consequences that may ensue.
There has been great controversy concerning the passage of the 9/11 bill even within the US and Obama himself strongly criticized the congressional overriding of his veto of the bill [JURIST report]. In vetoing the bill last week, Obama expressed concern that JASTA may set a dangerous precedent for allowing the US to be held liable by foreign private courts. 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].