US judge allows lawsuit against Palestinian groups to proceed

[JURIST] A US district judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss [decision and order, PDF] a lawsuit against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) [CFR backgrounders] seeking damages for the injuries and deaths of US citizens in attacks in Israel. District Judge George B. Daniels [official profile] of the Southern District of New York [official website] rejected defense arguments that the Palestinian groups could not be sued under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991 (ATA) [text], which grants civil remedies to US citizens injured by acts of international terrorism. The defendants unsuccessfully argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction in the case, that an Israeli court would be a more appropriate forum, and that they were entitled to immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [text; US State Department backgrounder]. The defendants also contended that the attacks were acts of war, for which the ATA does not provide remedies. Rejecting that defense, Daniels wrote:

There has been no showing that the situs of the attacks were in any combat or militarized zone, or were otherwise targeted at military or governmental personnel or interests. Rather, plaintiffs allege that the attacks were intentionally targeted at the civilian population. They were purportedly carried out at locations where non-combatants citizens would be known to congregate, such as in the cafeteria on the Hebrew University campus and on a commercial passenger bus. Additionally, the use of bombs, under such circumstances, is indicative of an intent to cause far-reaching devastation upon the masses.... Such claimed violent attacks upon non-combatant civilians, who were allegedly simply going about their everyday lives, do not constitute acts of war for purposes of the ATA.
Daniels did not rule on a defense motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, instead ordering limited discovery regarding that issue. AP has more.

The lawsuit [case materials] seeks $3 billion in damages resulting from seven attacks that occurred from 2001 to 2004. In June, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad [BBC profile] said the PA would defend itself [New York Sun report] in US cases in which plaintiffs had obtained default judgments. In another New York case, a federal district judge set aside a default judgment of more than $190 million against the PA but required it to post a bond [New York Times report] in the same amount to pay damages if found liable in subsequent proceedings. Earlier this year, the US State Department declined seek dismissal [AFP report] of US lawsuits against the PA after a request [Washington Post report] to do so by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In 2007, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice encouraged the Palestinians to "respond to U.S. legal proceedings in a good faith and a timely manner."

 

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