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Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview

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Publication Date: August 2008

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS22094

Topic: Justice (Legal procedure)

Abstract:

A 1996 amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) enables American victims of international terrorist acts supported by certain States designated by the State Department as supporters of terrorism -- Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and until recently, Iraq -- to bring suit in federal court to seek monetary damages. Holders of judgments against these States, however, have encountered difficulties in their efforts to collect, despite congressional efforts to make blocked (or "frozen") assets of such States available for attachment by judgment creditors. A recent court decision invalidating plaintiffs' cause of action under the 1996 law raises uncertainties about the future of lawsuits against terrorist States. This report provides an overview of these issues, including a summary of a lawsuit against Iran by former hostages, Roeder v. Islamic Republic of Iran, and a lawsuit against Iraq by former prisoners of war (POWs), Acree v. Republic of Iraq, as well as a brief synopsis of relevant legislative proposals (S. 1257, H.R. 1321, H.R. 865, H.Con.Res. 93). These issues are covered in greater depth in CRS Report RL31258, Suits Against Terrorist States By Victims of Terrorism. The report will be updated.