- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003


The 52 American hostages held by Iran more than two decades ago have no right to sue their former captors because the agreement that freed them — and that barred such suits — is still in force, a federal appeals court ruled.

The decision yesterday by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to uphold a lower court’s ruling comes despite recent attempts by Congress to clear the way for the former hostages to sue Iran for damages.

They were taken captive by Iranian militants in 1979 and held for 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. They were freed in 1980 under an agreement known as the Algiers Accords, which prohibited lawsuits related to the hostage-taking.

The former hostages and their families filed a lawsuit in 1998 against the government of Iran, seeking $33 billion in damages. The suit was based on anti-terrorism legislation passed in 1996 by Congress that opened the courts to people who believed they were harmed by acts of state-sponsored terrorism.

In late 2001, Congress passed two spending bill amendments that the former hostages contended in court arguments had lifted the prohibition against suing Iran.

The appeals court said that nothing in the amendments voided the Algiers Accords, although it agreed it was clear that Congress intended to interfere in the case. Language inserted in an accompanying conference report expressing congressional intent does not have the force of law, the ruling said.

“There is thus no clear expression in anything Congress enacted abrogating the Algiers Accords,” it said.

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