UAE warns 9/11 bill could cause ‘chaos’
Minister says proposed US terrorism law violates principle of sovereignty
A proposed US law that would allow the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia has the potential to cause “chaos” in international relations, a UAE minister has said.
HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, issued the warning after Congress passed a bill that would pave the way for such cases. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act ( JASTA) would, for the first time, authorise American courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, deaths or damages that can be proven to have been committed by that state or any of its officials.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 were Saudi nationals, although the 9/11 Commission Report in 2004 found “no evidence” the Saudi government or officials funded the hijackers.
Sheikh Abdullah was quoted by UAE news agency WAM as saying: “This law is not equal with the foundations and principles of relations among states and represents a clear violation given its negative repercussions and dangerous precedents.”
WAM went on to report: “HH Sheikh Abdullah warned of the negative effects of the law on all countries, including the United States, and the possible impact of chaos in the context of international relations, emphasising that such laws will negatively affect international efforts and cooperation to combat terrorism.”
WAM reported that Sheikh Abdullah said the UAE was looking forward to US legislative authorities reviewing the law and not ratifying it in light of the serious consequences it would have on the “international principles attached to sovereignty”. It added: “He concluded by saying that the UAE is looking to the US authorities to not endorse this law in order to ensure the maintenance of accepted international systems and principles.” The White House has signalled that US President Barack Obama would veto the legislation over the potential for it to backfire and apprehension about undermining a longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia, a critical US ally in the Middle East. The administration has warned that if US citizens can take the Saudis to court then a foreign country could in turn sue the United States. Votes from two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate would be needed to override a veto. Dr Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, an Associate Political Science Professor at UAE University, said that the US could lose investors from the GCC region if the law is approved, echoing comments made by the Saudi foreign minister in May, who claimed investors from many countries could have a rethink. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) yesterday also expressed concern about the bill. Abdullah said: “It seems like a law that has been created for revenge and not to provide justice. It is targeting friends, namely Saudi Arabia. It’s going to leave a lot of bad scars on Saudi Arabia and its friends. The UAE has made itself clear that the law is unjust.” He claimed “a lot of investors are thinking of selling their investments in the US if the law comes into effect”. In May, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir had said: “What they are doing is stripping the principle of sovereign immunities, which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle.”