There’s a large and uncomfortable amount of news this week about terror and torture victims trying to seek justice but not always ending up as they’d hoped.
The big US story is the wrongful death settlement by United Airlines and a security firm with the family of Mark Bavis, who was killed on 9/11 as a passenger on United Fl 175. “The family was the lone holdout among the thousands that either accepted money from the $7 billion Victim Compensation Fund or settled their lawsuits.” Read his brother Mike’s statement here, where he describes the devastating impact that federal preemption can have preventing litigants from getting answers in cases like this. Yet the family did make progress. He says,
Due to our family’s refusal to settle before this time, our attorneys at Motley Rice LLC have been able to conduct the most comprehensive investigation to date regarding how the airlines and airport security companies failed so miserably on 9/11 and in the days, weeks and months leading up to 9/11. Motley Rice’s attorneys have recovered ten times more information than the 9/11 Commission in regards to the failure of the aviation industry.
On a somewhat similar note in Britain, it was announced that the government will compensate relatives of victims of 1972’s tragic “Bloody Sunday,” when “British troops fired without warning on unarmed demonstrators” and then were exonerated “amid unfounded accusations that the troops had been attacked by Irish republican terrorists.” Fourteen people died that day, and 13 were wounded. But “one family immediately announced its intention to refuse any restitution, saying there were no circumstances under which they would ‘ever accept money’ for the loss of their brother William, 19. The idea of taking money from the Defense Ministry, they said, was ‘repulsive.’”
Meanwhile, there won’t be any justice anytime soon for the Abu Ghraib prison victims, again thanks to federal preemption. On Wednesday, the U.S. appeals court in Virginia dismissed lawsuits "claiming employees of two defense contractors conspired to torture and abuse Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and at other locations. … One lawsuit was filed by 72 Iraqis while the other was brought by four Iraqis.” Unfortunately, the court said the claims were pre-empted by U.S. national security and foreign policy law.
On the “suits recently filed” side of the ledger, Ernesto Zedillo, who was president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, may have a bit of a problem at his new job teaching international studies at Yale as director of its Center for the Study of Globalization.
The Associated Press reports that Zedillo “has been sued in Connecticut for alleged crimes against humanity in connection with the 1997 killings of 45 people in a Mexican village, a lawsuit that he called slanderous.” The lawsuit says that “Zedillo was responsible for the massacre by paramilitary groups in the village of Acteal, in the southern state of Chiapas, and tried to cover up the killings. The plaintiffs, who include people injured in the attack and relatives of some of the dead, are seeking total damages in the millions of dollars, one of their lawyers said.”
The case was “filed under the federal Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows people alleging violations of international law to sue in the United States, and the Torture Victims Protection Act, which permits damages for torture and illegal killings abroad.”
There are also reports that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been sued for $10 billion in a class action lawsuit for “terror and torture ... on behalf of an Iranian woman living in Los Angeles whose brother was tortured to death by the regime of Muslim leaders in Iran." Ahmadinejad apparently isn’t responding and “a default judgment would be the next step in the case, which was brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991.”
What a world.