- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court seemed skeptical on Monday about holding the current Iraqi government responsible in American courts for the acts of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Foreign nations usually are immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts, but federal law strips that protection from countries that support terrorism. Under Saddam, Iraq was considered a state sponsor of terrorism.

But the Iraqi government now says the U.S.-led invasion that deposed Saddam and a federal law enacted in 2003 restored Iraq’s immunity to lawsuits in American courts.

Americans who were held in Iraq during the Gulf War argued that the law passed by Congress did not give the new regime blanket immunity from lawsuits in American courts even though it removed Iraq’s designation as a terrorist state.

“If you change the designation of a state, if they become an ally, if they change their ways, they are still liable for the acts of torture they committed while they were designated,” said Thomas Goldstein, lawyer for the Americans held by Saddam’s government.

But if the law is unclear, “shouldn’t we resolve this in favor of the president’s position” since the president traditionally is the person who decides whether foreign countries can be sued, asked Justice David Souter, echoing concerns from other justices.

Americans suing Iraq include CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, who was held for more than a month during the Gulf War in 1991.

The Iraqi government also is being sued by the children of Kenneth Beaty, an oil rig supervisor, and by the children of William Barloon, an aircraft maintenance supervisor.

In 2001, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Oberdorfer in Washington, D.C., found the two men had been tortured after being illegally detained in Baghdad. The judge awarded Beaty, of Mustang, Okla., $4.2 million, and awarded Barloon, of Jacksonville, Fla., $2.9 million.

At issue in the case brought by the men’s children is whether a federal law enacted in 2003 and a related presidential order restored immunity from lawsuits to Iraq.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia says it does not, that the law applies narrowly to legal restrictions on assistance and money for the new Iraqi government. Chief Justice John Roberts, then an appeals court judge, said in an earlier case that the 2003 law and the president’s order were sufficient to block the lawsuits.

“Congress gave the president broad, catch-all authority to, if he deemed it appropriate, to relieve the people of Iraq from all, not just some, of the very onerous restrictions and disabilities that had applied to them as a result of the prior regime’s support for terrorism,” said Jonathan Franklin, who represented the Iraqi government before the Supreme Court.

Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, who represented the United States, said there are ongoing discussions between the two countries on resolving the claims. Talks, not lawsuits, are the way claims “between friendly allies ought to be” resolved, Franklin said.

The consolidated cases are Iraq v. Beaty, 07-1090, and Iraq v. Simon, 08-539.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide