USA justices rule Israeli victims can not sue terror-financing Arab Bank

The headquarters of Arab Bank in Amman Jordan

Victims of attacks in Israel can not use an 18th century law to sue the Arab Bank, a multinational financial institution, the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a precedent-setting case for other foreign businesses.

The Arab Bank was founded in Jerusalem in 1930 when Palestine was under the British Mandate, and now has more than 600 branches worldwide.

In his opinion for the Court, Kennedy emphasized that the question of ATS corporate liability raises serious foreign policy considerations best left to the political branches, noting this particular case has adversely affected the US relationship with Jordan, "a critical ally in one of the world's most sensitive regions".

The lawsuits invoked one of the first laws ever passed by Congress, the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, known as ATS, meant to be a forum for resolving claims of piracy.

The 5-4 decision left in place a lower court ruling that had thrown out a lawsuit brought by some 6,000 plaintiffs, including survivors and relatives of non-U.S. citizens killed in attacks, filed under a 1789 USA law called the Alien Tort Statute that accused Arab Bank of being the "paymaster" to militant groups.

Writing for the conservative majority in the decision posted Tuesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that US courts were too remote from the actions involved to rule.

The case decided today, Jesner v.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to reject a complaint by Israeli terror victims against the Arab Bank of Jordan, one of the largest banks in the Arab world, which alleged that the bank provided financial services to terror organizations. Moreover, the justices added, the court should generally refrain from creating or extending new grounds for lawsuits, especially when dealing with a subject, like the ATS, that may create foreign-policy concerns and is therefore more properly dealt with by Congress and the executive branch. Gorsuch stressed that "the decision to impose sanctions in disputes between foreigners over global norms" belongs to Congress and the president, rather than the courts.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent, which was joined by fellow liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Sotomayor castigated her colleagues for absolving "corporations from responsibility under the ATS for conscience-shocking behavior". The correct answer is that Congress, not the courts, should decide.

"The Court holds that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the ATS", he wrote.

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