The Supreme Court has ruled that lawsuits filed by victims of terrorist attacks and their families against Arab Bank cannot proceed.
According to NBC News, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote not to reinstate the lawsuits that were dismissed by the lower courts, which aimed to hold Arab Bank responsible for terrorist attacks in the Middle East.
More than 6,000 survivors and relatives of those killed in the West Bank and Gaza say that the bank’s officials were complicit in the attacks because they helped to finance Hamas and other terror organizations.
Victims hit the bank with a series of lawsuits in 2014, filed in the U.S. against the financial institution’s branch in New York. The lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case is Joseph Jesner, who lost his 19-year-old son to a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
The basis of the lawsuits was one of the first laws ever passed by Congress, the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, created to be a forum for resolving claims of piracy. But the Supreme Court ruling said this particular law does not cover the types of suits filed by the terror victims.
“Absent further action from Congress, it would be inappropriate for courts to extend ATS liability to foreign corporations,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the court’s majority. “Courts are not well suited to make the required policy judgments that are implicated by corporate liability in cases like this one.”
In addition, Justice Samuel Alito said allowing such lawsuits “would precipitate exactly the sort of diplomatic strife that the law was enacted to prevent.”
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for herself and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, said the Supreme Court’s decision “absolves corporations from responsibility under the ATS for conscience-shocking behavior.”
There is still a separate lawsuit brought by U.S. victims accusing Arab Bank of helping to enable terrorist attacks in Israel. That claim was filed under a separate law and is not affected by this ruling.