US Supreme Court rules Iran must pay almost $2bn to victims of 1983 terror attacks

The US Supreme Court has ruled that Iran must pay nearly US$2 billion in compensation to relatives of the 241 Marines who died in a 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut, as well as victims of other attacks that courts have linked to Tehran.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that Congress had acted within its powers when it passed a law in 2012 that granted victims involved in the case the right to be paid for their losses out of frozen funds tied to Iran’s central bank.

The legislation stated that the bank’s assets within the US were to be turned over to the families of the victims.

Iran’s central bank tried to stave off court orders at the time, complaining that US Congress was intruding into the business of federal courts when it passed the legislation, according to AP.

Over 1,300 people are among the relatives of the victims of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and other attacks.

The plaintiffs, led by Deborah Peterson, whose brother, Lance Cpl. James C. Knipple, was killed in the Lebanese capital in 1983, accused Iran of providing material support to militants responsible for the bombing that killed 241 US service members. According to US media, the plot was later traced to Hezbollah, a militant and political group that originated in Lebanon in 1982.

In a combined case, the plaintiffs sued to hold Iran liable for orchestrating the attacks. Congress entered into the dispute after passing the law to help the American plaintiffs gain hold of Iranian funds.

Congress has repeatedly changed the legislation in the past 20 years to allow victims to sue over state-sponsored terrorism while federal courts have ruled for the victims.

Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, argued that Congress exceeded its authority and unlawfully changed the law specifically to affect the case while it was pending in the courts.

Writing for a 6-2 majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg upheld the decision, saying it “provides a new standard clarifying that, if Iran owns certain assets, the victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks will be permitted to execute against those assets.”