On Monday, the Supreme Court granted a petition filed by roughly 6,000 victims of terrorist attacks between January 1995 and July 2005.
In the case, Jesner v Arab Bank, the victims and their families are accusing the Jordan-based Arab Bank of distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to finance suicide bombings and making “martyrdom” payments to the families of suicide bombers.
The plaintiffs argue that Arab Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East, made arrangements to pay the relatives of “martyrs” from four Palestinian terrorist organizations: the Islamic Resistance Movement, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrsʹ Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They also accuse the bank of collecting donations and maintaining accounts for the terrorist organizations
The court must decide if the bank can be sued for damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows non-US citizens to file a case against actors who violate the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.
In 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled with the Arab Bank, arguing corporations were immune to the Alien Tort Statute. They argued that the case would “reach too far to say that mere corporate presence suffices.ʺ
Michael Elsner, attorney for the plaintiffs, argues: “Immunizing corporations who finance terrorists from liability for violations of customary international law is wrong and inconsistent with the language and purpose behind the ATS.”
“This decision has important implications for the fight against global terrorism. Disarming clients from their right to bring civil lawsuits is a victory for terrorist financiers,” Elsner said.
In response, Arab Bank released a statement, saying they “did not cause plaintiffs’ injuries, and there is no basis under international law or the Supreme Court’s ATS decisions to reinstate these dismissed claims.”
They also point to the fact that the US government has previously called Arab Bank a “constructive partner” in the fight against terrorism financing and money laundering.