Deep concern has been expressed by a group of six Gulf Arab countries over a bill that would allow families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue foreign governments, particularly Saudi Arabia.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, condemned the law passed by the U.S. Congress to sue the kingdom’s government (Saudi Arabia) for damages.
General Abdullatif al-Zayani, Secretary General of the GCC, said the law was “contrary to the foundations and principles of relations between states and the principle of sovereign immunity enjoyed by the states.” The six-nation GCC also issued condemnations from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates saying that the law will “affect international efforts and international cooperation to combat terrorism”
The proposed law, called “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act”, known as JASTA, was passed last Friday, however, the White House has threatened to veto the bill. President Obama has mentioned that passing such a law would open the United States to similar lawsuits from other countries. Officials from the White House expressed their reasoning’s for opposing the measure stating:
“The proposed remedy, however, would enact broad changes in longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity that, if applied globally, could have serious implications for U.S. interests. We believe there needs to be more careful consideration of the potential consequences.”
Currently, sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine by which a sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, introduced JASTA a year ago along with Republican John Cornyn of Texas. They said in a joint statement:
“The bottom line is that victims of terror on American soil ought to have an ability to hold accountable the foreign powers and other entities that fund the hate-filled organizations that inflict injury and death on our fellow citizens.”
Although there have been threats from the White House to veto the bill, an override vote may, and most likely will occur. JASTA passed both houses unanimously earlier this year in May which shows that they could attain the two-thirds vote needed to pass the bill should President Obama veto the measure.