(April 25, 2018 / JNS) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that foreign victims of human-rights abuses and terror attacks cannot sue foreign businesses in U.S. courts.
In Jesner v. Arab Bank, a suit by Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism in Judea, Samaria and Gaza from 1995 through 2005 against the Jordan-based Arab bank, U.S. justices voted 5-4 that the victims could not use the Alien Tort Statute to make claims against the bank. The 18th-century Alien Tort Statute states that foreigners may bring lawsuits in American courts for serious violations of international human-rights laws.
The plaintiffs argued that the Arab bank’s New York branch knowingly provided millions of dollars to finance suicide bombings and “martyrdom” payments to reward the families of terrorists who succeeded in killing civilians, keeping accounts for known terrorists and accepting donations they knew would be used for terrorist activity in Israel.
The bank denied the allegations and argued that if the court allowed that, such cases would interfere with U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that people or entities sued under the Alien Tort Statute must have a real connection to the United States, but did not decide whether businesses could be sued.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the dissent, stating that the majority opinion “absolves corporations from responsibility” for “conscience-shocking behavior.”