JASTA Could Alter International Law Landscape

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act pic

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act
Image: post-gazette.com

Kenneth Randall served two decades as a law professor and dean at the University of Alabama School of Law. He is currently the president and CEO of iLaw and iLawGlobal in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In addition to his other professional interests, Kenneth Randall specifically follows trends in international law.

The U.S. Senate recently passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would give victims of terrorist attacks in the United States the ability to bring a lawsuit against a foreign government if they potentially played a role in the attack. Foreign governments typically enjoy what is commonly known as “sovereign immunity” from these types of legal actions, but JASTA flies in the face of that convention, allowing for other nations to bear liability if they are found to have knowingly participated in an attack within US borders.

Jack Goldsmith and Curtis Bradley, law professors at Harvard Law School and Duke Law School, respectively, recently collaborated on a New York Times editorial that criticizes JASTA and its potential impact. They argue that JASTA undermines one of the core principles of international law, which asserts that sovereign nations shouldn’t enforce their specific laws on another nation.

Sometimes nations do agree to limit immunity in certain circumstances, however. The U.N. Security Council can also put forth resolutions that, as a practical measure, supersede sovereign immunity. Still, most international law holds that nations are guaranteed immunity from the laws of other countries, even regarding the worst alleged crimes.

The bill currently sits before the House Judiciary Committee. Despite the fact that it has gained traction on both sides of the aisle, the White House has given the indication that President Obama will veto the bill should it come before him.


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