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Media Alerts - Michelle Van Beneden v. Abdallah Al-Sanusi
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March 22, 2013
  Michelle Van Beneden v. Abdallah Al-Sanusi
Headline: D.C. Circuit allows suit against Syria by victim of 1985 Abu Nidal terrorist attack.

Area of Law: Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

Issue Presented: Whether two events that occurred in separate places on the same day can be considered the same "act or incident" such that lawsuits arising out of each are "related" and fall under the exception to the limitations period provided in section 1605A of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Brief Summary: Appellant, a victim of Abu Nidal's 1985 terrorist attack in Vienna's Schwechat Airport, appealed a ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissing his claim against Syria as untimely. Although the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) previously barred Appellant's claim, Congress amended the FSIA in 2008 to allow a suit to be brought against a foreign sovereign if it arises out of the same act or incident as a related action that was filed within the limitations period. Here, the related action arose out of an attack on Rome's Leonardo de Vinci airport, carried out by the same group on the same day at roughly the same time. The district court construed the "related action" limitation narrowly, ruling that the two attacks were not part of the same act or incident, and dismissed the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed after considering the increasing interrelatedness of seemly discrete acts of terrorism. Noting the statute's broad purpose, the court resolved to interpret its ambiguous provisions "flexibly and capaciously." Likening these two attacks to two of the targets in the September 11, 2001 attacks, the D.C. Circuit held that "a single group of people committing two simultaneous attacks planned as part of a coordinated assault on an identifiable group of individuals at similar locations using weapons from the same shipment" constitutes the same act or incident within the meaning of the FSIA.

The full text of the opinion can be viewed at:

Panel: Tatel, Brown, and Williams

Argument Date: 12/07/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 03/22/2013

Docket Number: No. 11-7045

Decided: Reversed

Case Alert Author: Joseph Maher

Counsel (if known): Steven R. Perles, Edward B. MacAllister, Richard D. Heideman, and Tracy Reichmen Kalik for Appellant. Ramsey Clark and Lawrence W. Schilling for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Brown

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elizabeth Beske/Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 03/22/2013 02:20 PM     DC Circuit  

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