Senate votes to let victims of foreign terrorism collect
New York Times
October 12, 2000
WASHINGTON - The Senate enacted legislation Wednesday that would allow
victims of terrorism to collect court-awarded damages from countries that
sponsor terrorist activity. The bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House
last week, now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.
In a bipartisan effort, the Senate passed the measure 95-0.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a co-sponsor of the bill, said it would
"strengthen our stand against terrorism" by acting as a deterrent
to attacks aimed at American citizens abroad.
For a suit to succeed in American courts, the State Department must
list the country as a sponsor of terrorism. Iran, for example, has been
on the list since 1984.
Congress passed a measure in October 1998 that called for the State
Department and the Treasury Department to help victims of terrorism locate
money for judgments. But the legislation contained a waiver that permitted
the president to decline support in the interest of national security.
The new measure does not give the president that option.
Administration officials have voiced concern that the sanctity of American
diplomatic property abroad, a right extended to all diplomatic missions
under international law, might be compromised if private citizens here
were allowed to seize foreign government property.
In March, a federal judge ordered Iran to pay $341 million in damages
to Terry Anderson, a former correspondent for The Associated Press who
was held hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s, and his family. A suit filed
by Anderson said his kidnappers were members of Hezbollah, a terrorist
group financed and trained by Iran.
In March 1998, a federal judge ordered Iran to pay $247.5 million to
the family of Alisa M. Flatow of West Orange, N.J., who was studying at
a seminary in Jerusalem in 1995 when she was killed in a suicide bus attack
for which Islamic Holy War, with ties to Iran, claimed responsibility.
And in August 1998, a federal court ordered Iran to pay $65 million in
damages for its role in the kidnapping of Joseph J. Cicippio, Frank H.
Reed and David P. Jacobsen, three Americans held with Anderson.
Thus far, they have been unable to collect on the settlements.