New bill would enable terrorism suits


A bipartisan slate of U.S. senators introduced legislation to bolster the ability of victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism.

The Justice for Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act introduced Thursday tightens loopholes in the Flatow Amendment of 1996, named for Alisa Flatow, a 20-year old 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 and other victims 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.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) are the lead sponsors. “My bill would allow victims of state-sponsored terror to have their day in court,” Lautenberg said. “It would let victims sue countries and hold those countries accountable.” Among the co-sponsors are presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.)

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