Saudis reject 9/11 act as threat to sovereignty, Russia says it damages international law
Saudi Arabia has rejected the Congressional approval of the act that would allow the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Riyadh for damages, claiming it weakens the sovereign immunity of the nation. Russia has slammed the legislation as undermining international law.
According to a Saudi Foreign Ministry source, who spoke with the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) will contribute to the “erosion” of the principle of sovereign immunity, one of the cornerstones of conduct in international relations. The law, the source claimed, will also have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States.
The diplomat stressed that many other nations and experts oppose JASTA because of the “dangers” the bill represents, as seen by the opposition posed to it by President Barack Obama and the US secretary of defense, Ash Carter.
The official, however, expressed “hope that wisdom will prevail and that Congress will take the necessary steps to correct this legislation in order to avoid the serious unintended consequences that may ensue.”
On Wednesday, Congress in a 348-77 vote chose to override the presidential veto which Obama had used last week.
Also known as House Resolution 3815, JASTA creates an exception to the sovereign immunity law introduced in 1976, allowing US citizens to sue foreign countries for acts of terrorism that kill Americans on US soil.
The sovereign immunity law had been invoked to shield Saudi Arabia from lawsuits over the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Fifteen of the 19 men who hijacked commercial airliners and used them as missiles to target the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that date were subjects of the Gulf kingdom. Riyadh has denied backing the hijackers.
Earlier in September, the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council expressed “deep concern” about the bill, with Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani calling it “contrary to the foundations and principles of relations between states.”
Established in 1981, the GCC consists of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. In a separate statement, the government of Qatar said JASTA “violates international law, particularly the principle of sovereign equality between states,” according to Reuters.
“Such laws will negatively affect the international efforts and international cooperation to combat terrorism,” said the UAE foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to state news agency WAM.
Two of the 9/11 hijackers were Emirati.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday slammed Washington’s passing of JASTA.
“Washington has once again demonstrated total disregard for international law, legalizing the possibility of filing lawsuits in US courts against states suspected of supporting terrorism,” the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department said in a statement, as cited by RIA Novosti.
“The United States, where many politicians have come to believe in their own ‘uniqueness,’ insistently continues along the line of extending its jurisdiction to the entire world, disregarding the notions of state sovereignty and common sense,” the statement reads further.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also pointed to the fact that “it reached the point that in this case, even the Obama administration, which is usually willing to juristically blackmail other countries, was against [JASTA].”