SOME LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE JUSTICE AGAINST SPONSORS OF TERRORISM ACT
Following the lead of the U.S. Senate on May 17, 2016, the House of Representatives of the United States of America unanimously adopted the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which will allow victims of terrorism to bring class actions against any state directly or indirectly involved in terrorist acts against American citizens. U.S. president Barack Obama attempted to impose his veto against this legislation, but was overridden by both houses in September, 2016. As a result, the Act entered into law, risking a real revolution in international law with potentially very serious political consequences.
While it may be anticipated that those countries directly complicit in terrorism will see their assets – including their sovereign assets in the United States – seized to finance the compensation of the victims, such prosecutions will undoubtedly also involve European countries, many of which have themselves been targeted by terrorism. This is especially likely when their nationals are involved in terrorist acts.
There is now a great risk that U.S. law will unilaterally modify several fundamental principles of international law, such as the sovereign immunity of states, creating genuine legal conflict in which victims of terrorism will seek redress from all states, including allied nations or countries that have themselves been victims of terror.