Renowned lawyer calls for Saudi bill similar to JASTA

US Congress overrode President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

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Renowned international lawyer Dr. Khaled Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Nuwaisser has urged Saudi authorities to enact a bill similar to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) passed by the US Congress recently, saying the Saudi JASTA would give citizens the right to sue foreign countries and organizations that support terror against the Kingdom at local courts.

Speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette following the passage of the controversial legislation by the US Congress, overriding President Barack Obama’s veto, the Saudi lawyer described JASTA as a dangerous precedent, adding that it would give the US Congress greater powers than the international law that protects sovereignty and immunity of countries.

“This bill (JASTA) is unfortunate and a dangerous precedent,” Al-Nuwaisser said. The US has opened the door for all countries to pass similar laws and this is what President Obama and senior American officials had warned the Congress before passing the law.

“It’s now imperative to pass a similar law or Saudi JASTA that would allow every Saudi to take legal action against any government that sponsors terrorism against the Kingdom, including Iran and Hezbollah, by filing lawsuits at Saudi courts,” he explained.

Al-Nuwaisser called upon the 150-member Shoura (Consultative) Council to initiate the passing of an anti-terror sponsor law during the coming session and give it top priority. The draft law would then be presented to higher authorities for endorsement.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest victims of terrorism and terrorists,” the lawyer said, adding that the proposed law would reflect the will of Saudi people to protect their nation from foreign attack and safeguard its security and stability. He said the Saudi JASTA would not be aimed at escalation of tension with the US as it would not be wise to have a confrontation with that country. “At the same time, the Saudi JASTA should not exclude any country including the US from attending trial at Saudi courts,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) voiced deep concern over the adoption of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) by the United States Congress.

“This law is a violation of the principle of immunity of sovereign states, which is a basic and established legal principle in international relations and international law,” the pan Islamic body said in a press statement.

The OIC stated that the reaction of the international community to this law underscores the need to adhere to the centuries-old position held by states that no sovereign state, relying on arbitrary standards as means of applying political and economic pressure, may impose its jurisdiction on another sovereign state. Otherwise, this would be a breach of the independence of states and a flagrant violation of established principles in international law and interstate relations.

“Regrettably, this unilateral law is an invitation to serious chaos in international relations,” the statement said, adding that the Congress move upsets a firm and established international legal order and diminishes the integrity of the entire international legal system as it opens the door to states to pass similar laws, which is expected in reaction to protect their rights.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 4, 2016.

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