NEW YORK (CN) – Sovereign immunity shields Saudi rulers from being held liable for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even if the victims’ families can prove the Saudis knew that the money they donated to Muslim charities would be funneled to the terrorists, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
The court agreed that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over claims against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, four Saudi princes, a Saudi banker and the Saudi commission responsible for disbursing funds to Muslim charities.
The families of Sept. 11 victims claimed the Saudis funded Muslim charities, which in turn funded al-Qaida, the terrorist group responsible for the attacks. They said the Saudis are liable, because “there would not be a trigger to pull or a bomb to blow up without the resources to acquire such tools of terrorism and to bankroll the persons who actually commit the violence.”
Their lawsuit named hundreds of parties, including foreign governments, charities and individuals alleged to have funded or provided logistical support to the terrorists.
The district court dismissed their claims against Saudis on the basis of sovereign immunity, and the appellate court affirmed.
Judge Dennis Jacobs said the plaintiffs had to establish that the princes “expressly aimed” intentional tortious acts at U.S. residents.
“Providing indirect funding to an organization that was openly hostile to the United States does not constitute this type of intentional conduct,” Jacobs wrote. “In the absence of such a showing, American courts lacked personal jurisdiction over the Four Princes.”
For the same reasons, the court dismissed the claims against the other Saudi defendants.