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Rubio Provisions to Improve Justice for American Victims of International Terrorism Become Law
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) applauded President Trump for signing into law the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (S. 2946), a bipartisan bill to improve access to justice in U.S. courts for Americans who are victimized by acts of terrorism while abroad. In May 2018, Rubio joined Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and others in introducing this legislation to clarify congressional intent behind provisions of the Antiterrorism Act of 1992, which some federal courts have misinterpreted, and to make needed improvements to the original law.
“This new and much-needed law will help Floridians and other Americans who are victims of terrorism internationally in their efforts to seek justice in federal courts,” Rubio said. “I thank Judiciary Chairman Grassley, Senator Nelson and my fellow lawmakers for working together to advance this important legislation, and I applaud President Trump for signing this bill into law.”
Below is a summary of key provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-253):
Clarifies U.S. Court Jurisdiction in Foreign Terrorism Cases
Recent flawed court decisions have called into question the Antiterrorism Act’s continued ability to hold terrorists or their supporters accountable in U.S. courts. For example, the Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny certiorari in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization—a case in which Chairman Grassley led a bipartisan amicus brief—leaves in place a flawed circuit court decision gutting the extraterritorial scope of the 1992 law. Carrying out or assisting an act of international terrorism that injures or kills Americans abroad should provide sufficient justification to subject defendants to U.S. legal sanctions. Moreover, no one benefiting from a U.S. program, such as foreign assistance, or maintaining a presence in the United States should be able to simultaneously dodge responsibility in U.S. courts for involvement in terrorist attacks that harm Americans. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act clarifies that certain defendants who take advantage of benefits under certain U.S. laws shall be deemed to have consented to jurisdiction in U.S. courts for any Antiterrorism Act lawsuit.
Expanding Access to Remedies for Victims of Narco-Terrorism
Under current law, American victims of terrorism may use the assets of a perpetrating terrorist entity that are frozen by the U.S. government to satisfy court-awarded judgments. Assets frozen under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”), however, currently remain unavailable to victims of terrorism. This leaves victims of narco-terrorism or other drug-related terrorist activity without a meaningful method of satisfying their Antiterrorism Act judgments. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act clarifies that assets blocked under the Kingpin Act are available to victims.
Ending “Acts of War” Exemption Abuse
The Antiterrorism Act of 1992 exempted lawful “acts of war” from the scope of its civil liability provisions. However, some defendants accused of aiding and abetting acts of international terrorism have successfully claimed in court that the law’s “act of war” defense shields them from civil liability, even when the act of terrorism was perpetrated by a designated terrorist group. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018clarifies that the “act of war” defense does not apply to acts carried out by entities designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. government or any person that has been determined by the court to not be a military force. This simple amendment will help ensure that American victims of terrorism—including soldiers and other personnel serving abroad—can have their rightful day in court.