The United States Senate on Tuesday reportedly voted unanimously in favour of a bill that would allow the families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon to sue Saudi Arabia, believed to be involved in the terror plot. The bill has always been opposed by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act or JASTA will now be tabled in the U.S. House of Representatives, Reuters reported. The families and relatives of the people killed in the 2001 terror attacks and the survivors would be able to file lawsuits against the members of Saudi Arabian government and seek damages if the bill becomes law.
The JASTA would also enable proceedings against the country in New York's federal court where lawyers are already trying to prove Saudi involvement, while paving the way for removal of sovereign immunity. The planes that crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, were hijacked by 19 al Qaeda operatives, of whom 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, according to BBC.
Saudi Arabia, which has refuted claims of involvement in the attacks, has threatened to sell $750 billion in Treasury securities and other U.S. assets if the bill became law. "What (Congress is) doing is stripping the principle of sovereign immunities which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle," Reuters quoted Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir as saying.
The White House has said Obama would veto the bill. "This legislation would change long-standing, international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the president of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
However, Democrat Senator from New York Charles Schumer supported JASTA and said he would vote against Obama's veto. The bill was sponsored by Schumer and Republican Senator from Texas John Cornyn.
At least 3,000 people were killed when two planes crashed into the towers of the WTC, another into the Pentagon and the fourth in a field in western Pennsylvania. Thousands other were injured in the attacks.