As a Saudi international lawyer with a strong attachment to the United States and its values, I’d like to draw attention to the unintended consequences that the Justice for Sponsors of Terrorism Act will incur on the U.S. and Saudi fight against terrorism and the threat it poses to shared core principles of the Rule of Law.
I started my legal career at White & Case LLP in New York City on Sept. 10, 2001. Like all New Yorkers, the terrorist attack the following day left me scared, angered, and confused. I was one of many who attempted to volunteer in days that followed, a feeble effort to make sense out such tragedy. I am forever scarred by the personal trauma which has remained with me since, particularly once we found out the attackers were Saudi.
Though well intentioned, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) would mark a serious breach of long established international judicial principles – developed in the U.S. – which govern the way sovereign states interact with each other; namely sovereign immunity.This is not a set of arcane legal or diplomatic niceties. Indeed, it is particularly relevant to international counterterrorism efforts, where after 15 years of struggle, the U.S. has rallied the international community around a set of commonly agreed upon norms and principles. This has led to more perpetrators of terrorist acts being brought to justice than ever before.
If JASTA is passed, however, it is likely parts of the global judicial systems will ‘freeze up’ reciprocally because of the unintended consequences of eliminating foreign sovereign immunity; denying justice to victims of future terrorist acts not only in the U.S. but also the UK, where I reside, and across the globe. Included in this is Saudi Arabia, which has endured 63 terrorist attacks since 9/11 and is currently undertaking a serious reexamination of the problem of Jihadi-Salafism.
JASTA will undermine the Rule of Law and hamper – rather than enhance – current U.S., UK, Saudi and international efforts to combat terrorism. Considering the threat of Daesh and Al-Qaida, it is best to achieve cooperation and justice through consensual jurisdiction.
Prof. Dr. Malik R. Dahlan is the Principal of Quraysh. Based in London, Dr. Dahlan is a fellow of the Aspen Institute, a member of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), and Chair of the International Section of the Harvard Law School Association (HLSA), where he also served as founding President of the Harvard Law School Association of Arabia (HLSA-A). He is a UN Constitutional expert and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Mediation Institute in The Hague and spearheaded the establishment of the Brookings Center in Doha, where he served as its founding director.
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