Supreme Court Rules Iran Should Pay Victims Of Terrorism

Juliegrace Brufke | Capitol Hill Reporter

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday Iran’s central bank will have to pay $1.75 billion to more than 1,300 people related to victims of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks.

The bank appealed the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2014 decision on the case filed by Deberah Peterson, the sister of Lance Cpl James C Knipple who died in the 1983 barracks bombing in Beirut, along with other families affected by terroristic acts of violence.

Bank Markazi argued Congress was infringing on the federal court’s constitutional powers when it passed the Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 –which was designed to require the bank to “satisfy any judgment to the extent of any compensatory damages awarded against Iran for damages for personal injury or death caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, or hostage-taking, or the provision of material support or resources for such an act.”

The same year, President Barack Obama also signed an executive order tightening nuclear sanctions on the country and freezing its government assets in the United States – both of which have been eased with the controversial Iran nuclear agreement.

The justices ruled Congress was well within its rights when passing the bill, with just Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor filing dissenting opinions.

“There has never been anything like §8772 before. Neither the majority nor respondents have identified another statute that changed the law for a pending case in an outcome-determinative way and explicitly limited its effect to particular judicial proceedings,” Roberts wrote. “That fact alone is ‘[p]erhaps the most telling indication of the severe constitutional problem’ with the law.”

While relatives of victims could take legal action on acts of terror under U.S. law, they often were unsuccessful in collecting what they were owed.

A group of 226 bipartisan lawmakers in the House signed an amicus brief in December, filed to back the plaintiffs in the case.

Republican Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania, a leader in the efforts to help families receive compensation, applauded the court’s decision.

“The court’s decision today will help more than 1,300 victims of terror attacks like the 1983 bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia recover some $1.75 billion in damages they’ve been awarded by federal courts,”Meehan told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “No dollar amount can undo the pain and suffering of the victims and their families. But today’s decision paves the way for some measure of justice.”

Meehan spearheaded legislation – which passed the House last fall, but was not taken up in the Senate – designed to prohibit Iranian sanction relief until the country paid its court-ordered damages.

House Speaker Paul Ryan also praised the outcome of the case, saying the court made the right decision.

“Families of Iranian terror victims have had to wait far too long to recoup these payments,” he said in a statement. “While we can only provide so much comfort to those who grieve, I hope this ruling will help bring justice.”

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