WASHINGTON (CN) – Iraq and the Iraqi Intelligence Service are not immune from claims that they detained and tortured hostages during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
The hostages and their families filed suit in 2003 against Iraq, the intelligence service and former dictator Saddam Hussein, citing an exemption to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for nations that commit or sponsor terrorism.
Iraq countered that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 gave President Bush the authority to waive the terrorism exception with respect to Iraq, which he promptly did. Alternatively, the nation argued that the lawsuit exceeded the 10-year statute of limitations and is barred by the political question doctrine.
Judge Ginsburg found that the more recent law does not strip the courts of their jurisdiction over cases that were pending under federal sovereign immunity law when Congress passed the 2008 law.
The court also said the complaint is not time-barred, because the 10-year period should be extended by the amount of time Iraq was immune from suit.
Finally, the judges roundly rejected Iraq’s argument that a judgment against Iraq would contradict U.S. foreign policy. Defendants cited an executive order in which President Bush declared that “the threat of attachment or other judicial process” against Iraqi oil interests “constituted an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”