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10 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 741 (1996)
Human Rights vs. Sovereign Rights: The State Sponsored Terrorism Exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

handle is hein.journals/emint10 and id is 753 raw text is: HUMAN RIGHTS VS. SOVEREIGN RIGHTS: THE
STATE SPONSORED TERRORISM EXCEPTION TO
THE FOREIGN SOVEREIGN IMMUNITIES ACT
I. INTRODUCTION
On December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over
Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and eleven
people on the ground.1 On May 18, 1995, a U.S. district court
dismissed a set of tort claims brought by relatives of the flight
103 victims against the Libyan government, which allegedly was
responsible for the bombing.2 The court based its dismissal on
the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA),3 which bars
courts from exercising jurisdiction over foreign states for torts
which occur outside the United States.4 In Smith v. The Social-
ist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, relatives of two of the vic-
tims on board flight 103 sued The Socialist People's Libyan Arab
Jamahiriya (Libya), alleging that Libya encouraged the bombing
and asserting various tort claims.5 In dismissing the suit, the
district court judge stated that Libya's alleged terrorist actions
do not fall within the enumerated exceptions to the Foreign
Sovereign Immunities Act and therefore Libya must be accorded
sovereign immunity from suit.' This decision was hardly/
groundbreaking. U.S. courts have consistently resisted efforts to
expand the exceptions to the FSIA to include extraterritorial acts
of terrorism.7
1 Richard Witkin, U.S. Tightening Security Checks on Flights Abroad, N.Y. TIMES,
Dec. 30, 1988, at Al.
2 Smith v. The Socialist People's Libyan, 886 F. Supp. 306 (E.D.N.Y. 1995).
3 Id. at 315.
4 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1602-11 (1994) (Section 1604 grants immunity to foreign states
from the jurisdiction of American courts. Section 1605(a)(5) makes an exception for claims
involving injury or loss which occur within the United States).
Smith, 886 F. Supp at 309.
6 Id. at 315.
See, e.g., Persinger v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 729 F.2d 835, 842 (D.C.Cir. 1984)
(holding that the noncommercial tort exception requires that both the tortious act as well
as the injury occur in the United States). The plaintiff in Persinger tried to convince the

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