JASTA threatens to topple a central pillar of the international legal order
The US Congress’ Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (or JASTA) is of great concern to the whole community of nations that object to the erosion of the principle of sovereign immunity as well as the principle of sovereign equality between states enshrined in the UN Charter. The concept of sovereign immunity has governed international relations for hundreds of years. Removing or limiting these protections could have the unintended consequences of exposing countries to private lawsuits in foreign courts as a result of important military or intelligence activities.
Implementing JASTA would have a negative impact on the US, the European Union’s Member States and all nations. It is for this reason that the EU and several of its Member States as well as the US President, Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA have expressed their opposition to JASTA in its current form.
In a letter to the US Department of State, the EU delegation to Washington D.C. said the implementation of JASTA “would be in conflict with the fundamental principles of international law,” adding that it could “put a burden on bilateral relations between states as well as on the international order as a whole.”
The spokesperson for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared that along with all EU partners, they consider that the so-called JASTA bill runs contrary to international law. These sentiments have also been echoed by a 28-strong bipartisan group of US senators in a letter addressed to the sponsors of the bill, calling for the legislation to be narrowed in order to mitigate its unintended consequences. Equally Saudi Minister of Justice Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani said enacting JASTA would “trigger chaos in international relations, and would topple mutual trust between states and adversely affect all areas of international cooperation.”
It is our hope that wisdom will prevail and that Congress will take the necessary steps to correct this legislation in order to avoid the serious unintended consequences that may ensue.