(Adds background on case, paragraphs 4-12)
By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON, April 3 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Monday agreed to consider reviving litigation seeking to hold
Arab Bank Plc financially liable for militant attacks
in Israel and the Palestinian territories that accused the
Jordan-based bank of being the "paymaster" to militant groups.
The justices agreed to hear an appeal by roughly 6,000
plaintiffs, who included relatives of non-U.S. citizens killed
in such attacks and survivors of the incidents, of a lower court
ruling throwing out the litigation.
The plaintiffs accused Arab Bank under a U.S. law called the
Alien Tort Statute of deliberately financing terrorism,
including suicide bombings and other attacks. They are hoping to
overturn a 2015 New York federal appeals court ruling that the
bank could not be sued under the statute because it is a
The Alien Tort Statute, a law dating back to 1789, lets
non-U.S. citizens seek damages in U.S. courts for human rights
violations abroad. The lead plaintiff in the case is Joseph
Jesner, whose British citizen son was killed at age 19 in a 2002
suicide bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv.
The plaintiffs filed several lawsuits under the law in
Brooklyn federal court, claiming Arab Bank used its New York
branch to transfer money and "serve as a 'paymaster' for
The transfers helped Hamas and other groups fund attacks and
reward families of the perpetrators between 1995 and 2005, the
The bank said in court papers that the U.S. government has
called it a constructive partner in the fight against terrorism
financing. The bank said only four transactions out of 500,000
involved "designated terrorists" by the U.S. government, and
they were the result of machine or human error.
The bank also cited a separate 2010 case, Kiobel v Royal
Dutch Petroleum, in which the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals ruled that corporations cannot be sued under
the Alien Tort Statute.
After reviewing that case, the Supreme Court in 2013
narrowed the law's reach, saying claims must sufficiently "touch
and concern" the United States to overcome the presumption that
the Alien Tort Statute does not cover foreign conduct.
But the high court declined to explicitly decide whether the
2nd Circuit ruling on corporate liability was correct.
Based on the Kiobel ruling, the 2nd Circuit threw out the
litigation against Arab Bank.
The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, urging it to
decide once and for all whether or not corporations are shielded
over foreign conduct.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)