As lawyers representing the bereaved families and victims of terrorist attacks funded, supported and perpetrated by the Iranian regime, we are both surprised and dismayed at Under Secretary Wendy Sherman’s failure to respond to our letter last month calling for the remembrance and due reparation of the victims of terror in her diplomatic effort with the Iranian regime in the most current round of negotiations. As the negotiations with Iran led by Under Secretary Sherman continue, we call on Congress to ensure that the U.S. government is working to keep the interests of the terror victims’ families on the table.
As a result of lawsuits taken by American victims of terror in U.S. courts, the Iranian regime currently owes billions of dollars from decades of terrorist activity resulting in dozens of victims and severed families. This debt has yet to be recognized or paid by the Iranian government with no sign of an intention to do so.
Our letter called for the abandonment of criminal activity and reminded Under Secretary Sherman, that “if Iran truly desires to be reinstated as a member of the international community, it must certainly abandon its criminal behaviors…”
Moreover, we called on Sherman to learn from the lessons of U.S. foreign policy towards Libya, rather than North Korea. President George W. Bush moved toward an improvement in relations with the Libyan government with the repealing of any sanctions conditional upon the payment of reparations to the victims of Libyan terror. This move resulted in the payment of $1.5billion dollars to the victims’ families. Conversely, we warned what might happen if reparations are ignored as was the case with North Korea. When North Korea was removed from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism in 2008, the victims of North Korean terrorism were simply thrown beneath the bus and a “deal” was struck, without compensation being paid to these American families.
We fear this lack of response not only portends a potential Iranian exemption from paying reparations and giving due compensation to families affected by terror in return for normalization of relations, but that it also signals a softening of Sherman’s position on the proliferation of terrorist activity and most significantly, creates difficult implications for the United State’s reputation as a pillar of justice in the war on terror.
As lawyers for American, Canadian and Israeli victims of Iranian terror, we call on Congress to take action and place a check on Under Secretary Sherman in this current round of negotiations. We urge you to safeguard and uphold the intent of the more than two decades of hard fought anti-terror legislation. We call on all members of Congress to ensure that victims of terror are not forgotten and to help make the Iranian regime provide the proper reparations and due compensation for the innocent lives taken at the hands of terrorist activities and not to gain a free pass in the name of diplomatic maneuverings.
Darshan-Leitner is the director of Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center, a civil rights organization and world leader in combating the terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world.