Saturday, May 21, 2011
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court judgment against Syria in the amount of US$413 million on Friday. Syria is accused of providing material support to al Qaeda, which claimed responsiblity for the murders of two American military contractors in Iraq. The estates of the two victims brought suit against Syria under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. FSIA provides immunity for foreign states subject to a number of exceptions. In this case, plaintiffs relied on exceptions found in 28 U.S.C. 1605 and 1607, because Syria provided material support to terrorists and because Syria has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government. Syria did not participate in the original district court proceedings and the court entered a default judgment. Much of the appeal focused on Syria's claim that it had not properly been served with notice of the lawsuit. The appellate court considered Syria's argument, ultimately finding that service was properly made in accordance with FSIA. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the award. The case is Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, No. 08-7118 (May 20, 2011).