Bill to Improve Protections for American Victims of International Terror

May 28, 2018

2 min read

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have introduced of a bill they say “clarifies and restores Congressional intent” of the Anti-terrorism Act of 1992 to “ensure access to compensation for those impacted by acts of terror.” The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of the bipartisan legislation: “The history of Palestinian and Iranian terrorism against Americans is extensive, going decades and ranging from hijackings to suicide bombings and assassinations. For too long, American citizens have been disgracefully denied justice. This bill will ensure that American victims of terrorism are empowered to secure accountability from terrorists and their supporters.”

In a statement, Cruz and Grassley explain the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 is designed “to better ensure that American victims of international terrorism can obtain justice in U.S. courts, by holding accountable those who commit, or aid and abet, terrorist activity abroad.”

The new bill seeks to correct several flaws in the original anti-terrorism act. Cruz explained that under “The Anti-terrorism Act of 1992, some defendants accused of aiding and abetting acts of international terrorism have successfully claimed in court that the law’s “act of war” defense shields them from civil liability, even when the act of terrorism was perpetrated by designated terrorist groups.”

Secondly, the bill’s co-sponsors explain that the original bill “leaves victims of narco-terrorism or other drug-related terrorist activity without a meaningful method of satisfying their Anti-Terrorism Act judgments.”

The 2018 bill also clarifies the U.S. Court’s jurisdiction in foreign terrorism cases. “Recent flawed court decisions have called into question the Anti-Terrorism Act’s continued ability to hold terrorists or their supporters accountable in U.S. courts,” said Cruz’s office in a statement.

“The Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny certiorari in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization—a case in which [Senate Judiciary Committee] chairman Grassley led a bipartisan amicus brief—leaves in place a flawed circuit court decision gutting the extraterritorial scope of the 1992 law. Carrying out or assisting an act of international terrorism that injures or kills Americans abroad should provide sufficient justification to subject defendants to the U.S. legal regime.”

Moreover, the bill’s sponsors insist, that “no one benefiting from a U.S. program, such as foreign assistance, or maintaining a presence in the United States should be able to simultaneously dodge responsibility in U.S. courts for involvement in terrorist attacks that harm Americans. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act clarifies that certain defendants who take advantage of benefits under certain U.S. laws shall be deemed to have consented to jurisdiction in U.S. courts for any Anti-Terrorism Act lawsuit.”

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