When an American citizen is injured in a terrorist attack on foreign soil, the victim has a limited ability to sue a foreign state in the United States. Even more limited is the victim's ability to execute a judgment against the foreign state. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act permits plaintiffs to execute a judgment against a foreign state only in limited and explicitly stated circumstances.
In Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, the Seventh Circuit considered such a claim. The plaintiffs, seven American victims of a Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, sought to attach Iranian antiquities located in the Seventh Circuit in order to satisfy their $71.5 million judgment against Iran. The court rejected the plaintiff's arguments, and ruled that the plaintiffs may not attach their judgment to the Iranian antiquities in the Seventh Circuit. Most notably, the Court held that, contrary to the plaintiff's arguments, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act § 1610(g) does not offer a freestanding basis to execute judgments against state sponsors of terrorism. In so holding, the Court overruled Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic and Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, in part, and rejected the Ninth Circuit's decision in Bennett v. Islamic Republic of Iran.
From a statutory interpretation perspective, the Seventh Circuit reached the correct result in denying the plaintiffs execution on the Iranian antiquities. Auctioning cultural property raises policy concerns that further buttress the Seventh Circuit's outcome. However, the Rubin plaintiffs are deserving victims who have been denied execution of their judgment despite repeated attempts to do so. The Rubin victims are not alone; many other victims of state-sponsored terrorism have been unsuccessful at receiving compensation for their grievous injuries. This Note argues that, in lieu of a judicial remedy of the kind the plaintiffs sought, the executive branch should establish a comprehensive victim's compensation fund, paid for by the United States government, to compensate the victims of state-sponsored terrorism.
Claire E. Stephens,
Storming the Persian Gates: The Seventh Circuit Denies Attachment to Iranian Antiquities,
Seventh Circuit Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/seventhcircuitreview/vol12/iss1/7