Israel Law Center
Law Center Director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner: "There is undeniable proof this father was tortured to death by the Palestinian Authority. The family will continue their fight for justice"
US Supreme Court Dismisses Torture Case Against the Palestinian Authority on Technicality
April 19, 2012: Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center has received notice that the US Supreme Court decided to dismiss a lawsuit brought on behalf of the family of a Palestinian-American murdered at the hands of Palestinian intelligence officers in Jericho in 1995. The Court ruled that the Torture Victim Protection Act, as it is currently drafted, did not allow the family to sue the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization. The Justices held that the use of the term "individual" in the law's wording denoted that only private individuals, rather than corporations or organizations, could be targeted.
"We were sorry to hear this decision," remarked Shurat HaDin's director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. "This serves to remind us of the statute's problematic nature and wording. It was crafted to target individuals, which is a challenge by itself, but does not allow suits against dictatorial regimes and terrorist groups, all of whom are responsible for the individual's act. During all court hearings there was no denying that the father was tortured and murdered by the Palestinian Authority. The struggle will continue until justice is reached, even if this path failed on a technicality."
The US Supreme Court only chooses to hear about 20 cases each year. A dozen human rights advocates joined Shurat HaDin's appeal, including the UN Human Rights Commission, Senator Arlene Specter (who had originally sponsored the law), Stanford's Supreme Court Clinic, The Center for Law & Accountability and others.
Attorneys Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Robert Tolchin stand outside the Supreme Court with Azzam Rahim's sons last month (Photo: Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center)
The Rahim family originally filed the lawsuit, alleging that the Palestinian Authority should pay compensation for the torture and murder of Azzam Rahim, an American businessman who had traveled to the West Bank. This claim was further substantiated by a US State Department report noting that three Palestinian security officers took part in the crime.
The victim was born in a Palestinian village near Ramallah. He immigrated to Texas and received American citizenship. He, however, continued to maintain business links with the Palestinian territories, returning after the Oslo Accords were signed.
On one visit to the West Bank, the father was seized by the Palestinian intelligence service and taken to a Jericho police station. Although family members asked for his release, the police responded that only at the completion of the investigation would it be possible. A number of days later the father's body was delivered to the family. Palestinian police called and warned them to conduct a quiet burial. Azzam's sons, as American citizens, turned to the American consul in Jerusalem, who then demanded an autopsy of the body at an Israeli forensics center. It was revealed that the father had been severely tortured and murdered during his detention.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO in the Washington, DC federal court. The complaint demanded that the family be paid compensation for the father's murder. This lawsuit brought under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows American citizens to sue those who are responsible for their torture and death, accuses the Palestinian Authority and the PLO of being liable for Azzam's murder. Numerous US courts had interpreted the statue to permit lawsuits for torture against corporations, associations, and organizations. The US Supreme Court, however, has now ruled that the Torture Victims Protection Act can only be brought against private individuals, making its utilization extremely challenging.
The family was represented by New York attorneys Robert Tolchin and Nathan Tarnor, as well as Tel-Aviv attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. The case was argued for the family by the Stanford University Law School's Supreme Court Clinic. "Since there is no denying that Azzam Rahim was tortured to death by the Palestinian Authority, the United States Congress and the US State Department should assist this Texas family in their struggle to be compensated by those who are liable," stated Darshan-Leitner, who heads Shurat HaDin.
Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center is 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. Fighting for the rights of hundreds of terror victims, Shurat HaDin seeks to bankrupt the terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt - one lawsuit at a time.
For more information please contact Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner:
972-52-383-7020 (cell), 972-3-751-4175 (office)