The U.S. Senate finally decided to propose a law that allows the victims of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States to prosecute Saudi Arabia for its presumed role in the attacks. The Senate’s decision was made unanimously. It will now be referred to the House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority. It is expected that the House of Representatives will also approve the decision without any major opposition from Democratic members. This is particularly the case after the two presidential candidates for the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, announced their support for the proposed law, which was presented by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart John Cornyn.
The White House has repeatedly stated that President Barack Obama is opposed to this law, wanting to avoid setting a precedent of allowing the prosecution of certain countries or the prosecution of the United States for crimes that it has committed. In reality, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, did not delay in saying, “This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the president of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.” Why is the White House opposing this law, at least in appearance?
The spokesperson didn’t hesitate in responding. He said, “There’s also a concern…about the potential vulnerability that is created for some of our allies and partners in U.S. courts. And the concern is related to the fact that sovereign immunity is a principle that is critical to our national security. The United States is more engaged in activities in other countries than any other country in the world.“
There is no doubt that Obama now finds himself in a very awkward position. Maybe he promised Saudi Arabia that he would veto the law. But factors and conditions out of the ordinary caused him to review his position as the Democratic members of Congress and their Democratic colleagues supported the law. This led to collective endorsement in the Senate and it’s expected that this phenomenon will be repeated in Congress. There is much evidence for this and the two most important considerations are first of all, that the unanimous vote of Congress — or nearly unanimous — cancels the effect of the president’s veto, should he decide to use it.
Another opinion holds that Obama and his administration are weighing the higher interest of the state by not endorsing the law. The president’s decision to use his veto leaves Democratic and Republican members of Congress to bear their own responsibility on the matter. This assumes that Obama and his administration hold the conviction that the use of the veto will not negatively impact his Democratic Party in the upcoming elections; this is because members of Congress will carry the responsibility for endorsing or refusing the law. Consequently, he will not be blamed, at the end of his term, for having exercised his power for his own interests and outside the scope of the nation’s interests. Will some countries also seek to prosecute the United States in front of the International Court of Justice, championing the consequences of the U.S. Congress’ decision?
I wish that it would happen, since the United States would no longer be permitted by any measure, be it political, legal or humanitarian to remain beyond the scope of political accountability or legal responsibility for committing hostile acts against states and their people. It has done damage to several countries and should also be prosecuted in front of the International Criminal Court for crimes that its authorities and officers committed against individuals and people around the world. Maybe Iraq, its government and people, should be the ones to initiate the prosecution of America, to pursue its generals and officers in front of the International Criminal Court. The U.S. launched a war on Iraq in 2003 without gaining approval from the International Security Council. It resulted in human and material destruction beyond description. The effects of that period are still visible today.
When do oppressed states and peoples find the courage to speak out about their oppression and prosecute the responsible parties, states and individuals alike? When?