A defense bill signed by President Bush includes language that bolsters the ability of victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism.
The Defense Authorization Act signed this week incorporates the Justice for Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act, introduced last year by U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
Its language tightens loopholes in the Flatow Amendment of 1996, named for Alisa Flatow, a New Jersey student killed in a 1995 Gaza Strip attack carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group.
It took years for Flatow’s family and other victims of Iranian-backed violence to win damages based on the act, in part because a judge ruled that the earlier legislation required specific names of individuals or entities holding property in the United States.
The new legislation would hold the government responsible and would not burden victims with specifying targets. It also provides vehicles for compensation, specifying commercial assets belonging to the government and allows for only a single appeal by the government.
In a joint statement, Specter and Lautenberg said the victims’ families may now return to court. “The law will give victims their day in court and help them pursue the assets of countries that support terrorism,” it said.