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Consequences on international law of the decision from the American Congress to allow victims’ families of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 14263 | 31 January 2017

Mr Alain DESTEXHE, Belgium, ALDE ; Ms Sirkka-Liisa ANTTILA, Finland, ALDE ; Lord Richard BALFE, United Kingdom, EC ; Ms Eka BESELIA, Georgia, SOC ; Ms Sílvia Eloïsa BONET, Andorra, SOC ; Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, Latvia, SOC ; Mr Şaban DİŞLİ, Turkey, EPP/CD ; Mr Sergio DIVINA, Italy, NR ; Ms Daphné DUMERY, Belgium, NR ; Mr Bernd FABRITIUS, Germany, EPP/CD ; Mr Antonio GUTIÉRREZ, Spain, SOC ; Mr Carles JORDANA, Andorra, ALDE ; Mr Philippe MAHOUX, Belgium, SOC ; Mr Thomas MÜLLER, Switzerland, ALDE ; Ms Judith OEHRI, Liechtenstein, ALDE ; Ms Judith PALLARÉS, Andorra, ALDE ; Ms Patrícia RIBERAYGUA, Andorra, ALDE ; Mr Virendra SHARMA, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Damien THIÉRY, Belgium, ALDE ; Mr Cemalettin Kani TORUN, Turkey, EC

Following the multiple terrorist attacks committed these last few years in Europe and beyond, many families of victims are expecting straight answers and each responsible parties – individual, diplomatic and of the State – to be accountable for the consequences of their actions. Recently, the American Congress agreed that the families of the victims of 9/11 attacks can sue Saudi Arabia, the country from where 19 terrorists come.

The adoption of this law is setting up a new legal precedent which has a direct impact on the international customary law, the Vienna Convention, the Basel Convention, and 2004’s United Convention which are protecting beneficiaries from the jurisdictional immunity before domestic courts – namely State and every authority or body related to the State, and diplomatic and consular staff.

Under this precedent, some are concerned about the “boomerang effect” of such a decision which could empower people to engage proceedings against States for some of their military operations. To others, it may be viewed as a way to provide accountability and to enforce their effective access to justice regardless of the principle of immunity. The European Convention on Human Rights has never concluded to a violation of the article 6 (effective access to justice) but some are arguing for an evolving interpretation of the text.

In the light of the unprecedented current context, the Parliamentary Assembly should establish the applicable rules which allow a balance between an effective access to justice and the guarantee to immunity.