Banks Cleared on 2006 Rocket Attacks in Israel
WASHINGTON (CN) - Bank Saderat Iran and a subsidiary is not liable for the injuries and deaths caused by Hezbollah rockets on the border between Israel and Lebanon in 2006, a federal judge ruled.
The suit had been filed by American, Israeli and Canadian civilians who were either injured or whose family members died in the 34-day conflict. They claimed that Bank Daderat facilitated funding between the terrorist organization and Iran, another defendant in the case.
Bank Saderat Iran (BSI) and Bank Saderat PLC (BSPLC) allegedly funneled more than $50 million to Hezbollah "to carry out terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets in order to advance Iran's policy and goals."
Hezbollah launched the rockets against civilians in northern Israel from July 12 to Aug. 14, 2006.
Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed the suit Tuesday.
Though most of the 32-page addresses jurisdictional and standing arguments to dismiss, Lamberth ultimately ruled that the plaintiffs' Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act claims fail because the two banks are not majority-owned by a foreign state.
Lamberth also agreed to dismiss Anti-Terrorism Act claims against the banks, ruling that the conflict constitutes armed conflict - complete with a United Nations-brokered cease fire - instead of terrorism.
"Hezbollah is a terrorist group which routinely targets civilians," Lamberth wrote. "But, during this conflict, Hezbollah engaged in sustained combat with a national military force, initiating an attack on members of that military force, provoking a full-blown invasion of its base country (Lebanon) by that military, and, ultimately agreeing to a U.N.-brokered cease fire with that military."
The judge also dismissed Alien Tort Statute claims filed by the non-American plaintiffs, finding that the attacks were allegedly funded by Iran, launched from Lebanon, and targeted Israel, leaving no indication that that the attack was specifically targeted at Americans.
"Because these extraterritorial attacks do not 'touch and concern the territory of the United States ... with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application [of the ATS],' the claims are barred," the ruling states.
Judge Lamberth concluded by declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the victims' claims under Israeli law.
Though the judge dismissed claims against the two banks and their associated John Does, he left alive hope that the victims can pursue future action against Iran and its bank, the Central Bank of Iran, both of which have not been successfully served.
"Because this action has been pending for an extremely long time with no action, and because several years have elapsed since the clerk began to attempt mail service ... the court will now order plaintiffs to commence service on the remaining defendants via diplomatic channels ... within 21 days of this opinion," concluded the judge.