US House approves bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

US House approves bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

The US House of Representatives [official website] approved legislation [text, PDF] Friday that would allow US nationals to seek relief from foreign governments if that entity is believed to have had involvement with a terrorist attack taking place within the US that caused physical damage to that citizen’s person or property. The Act, titled the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” would allow families of those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama is in opposition [NYT report] to the bill because of its major foreign policy implications, including the possibility that US approval of the Act would open the country up to receiving civil suits by foreign nationals in return. The Saudi government has warned [NYT report] that if such legislation is enacted it may begin selling off up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets. The US government maintains [BBC report] that Saudi Arabia did not fund the 9/11 attacks.

The Act was approved [JURIST report] by the Senate in May. Obama has threatened to veto the bill. 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 [PDF text; 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].