The Senate has unanimously passed legislation which would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their involvement in the attacks.
Almost 3,000 people were killed and the World Trade Center was destroyed in 2001 in the largest terrorist attack in American history.
“Today the Senate has spoken loudly and unanimously that the families of victims of terrorist attacks should be able to hold the perpetrators, even if it's a country, a nation, accountable” said Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) who co-sponsored the bill.
The bill is called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and would make it possible for citizens to sue foreign governments involved in terrorist attacks against Americans. It is not specifically aimed at Saudi Arabia.
There has been pressure from a group of families of 9/11 victims seeking to sue the Saudi government for the Kingdom’s alleged financial support of Al-Qaeda.
“The American people, as well as our families, deserve the truth about 9/11 and those responsible deserve to be held to account” the group of families said in a statement following the passage of the bill. “JASTA promises us the truth, accountability and a strong warning that the United States finally will stand behind its promise of justice to those who were injured and the survivors of the three thousand children, mothers, fathers, wives and husbands who were murdered in our homeland on 9/11.”
So far they have been unable to sue Saudi Arabia since no court would accept the case, due to the 1972 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act gives foreign governments immunity from prosecution in US courts.
There is already one exception to this rule if a sovereign country is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, which Saudi Arabia is not.
Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off assets worth $750 billion if the bill passes Congress, since they fear those assets could be seized by the US and used to pay the families.
Before the bill becomes law it has to first pass through the House of Representatives before being signed into law by the President. However White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated that Obama would veto the legislation, citing concern over the precedent it would set regarding state sovereignty.
“The president of the U.S. continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the U.S. vulnerable in other court systems around the world” Earnest told reporters.
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