Charles KM Kambanda, PhD.

Obama has vetoed a Bill that would hold Saudi Arabia ( government officials/agents) criminally liable for the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US. US Congress has vowed to override the veto.

The two major candidates for the US first job, Hillary Clinton and Trump, have each vowed to sign the Bill into law if elected.

This Bill, if signed into law or if Congress overrides Obama veto and it becomes law, will leave the concept of Sovereign immunity in the dustbin of history.

Is the US ready to answer for all the criminal acts US government officials and/or agent allegedly perpetrate abroad? Would other countries have the right to enact similar law that would hold other countries criminally liable in their courts of law, if Sovereign immunity is destroyed, as the US Bill suggests? How would the world deal with a situation where so many countries have court judgments to execute against other nations? How would States execute such judgments against other States? I guess some governments would then attach foreign embassy property to execute judgments obtained in local courts against another State. That would be international law at a crossroad.

As States become more and more involved in crimes abroad, is it just and fair to deny justice to victims of State inspired crimes because of Sovereign immunity?

I am not a fun of Obama administration and I doubt any of the candidates running for president will actually sign that Bill if elected. However, from a purely political perspective, I think Obama is right, US Congress is probably mistaken. How would the US gov protect US property in foreign countries and US gov officials or ” agents” who engage in ” suspicious” acts/missions or outright crimes if other countries can hold the US liable for crimes committed in foreign countries by US government officials or agents?

How do you keep allies intact if the allies know the US will go for the Sovereign they represent? If the US pierces Sovereign immunity for Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia and other countries will probably “reciprocate” or ” retaliate”.

The US is dealing with a highly polarized BOP system. The US President cannot secure legally binding agreement(s) with many countries to waive those countries’ right to enact similar laws that would pierce Sovereign immunity.

Some US ” programs” abroad are necessarily illegal. E.g use of drones and some acts in ” the fight against terrorism”. If all countries the US has attacked with drones were to take on the US in their local courts, the US would go bankrupt. It’s Sovereign immunity that protects US from being dragged to courts of law abroad. Is it the US Congress that is trying to lay bear the US ” programs” abroad by piercing Saudi Arabia Sovereign immunity?

Of course, I have no doubt that Diplomatic and Sovereign immunity are often used to promote crime and impunity, the world over.

Dr Charles Kambanda

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