We tend to think of the fight against terrorism as a burden that falls mainly on the shoulders of government—our military, diplomatic, homeland security, and law-enforcement agencies. Yet there is one area where private citizens can play a leading role: In stopping the flow of funds to terror organizations. Beginning in the 1990s, Western countries, and especially the United States, passed laws making it possible for victims of terror to sue the regimes that sponsor terror, banks that transfer funds to terror groups, front organizations that pretend to serve charitable causes, and even the terrorists themselves. For the first time, terror victims and their families have a chance to fight back through the courts.
Established in 2003 and based in Tel-Aviv, Shurat HaDin works together with western intelligence agencies and volunteer lawyers around the world to file legal actions on behalf of victims of terror.
Following the model pioneered by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center—a non-profit legal center that over the last four decades has successfully confronted and shut down racist groups across America—Shurat HaDin seeks to bring terrorism to a halt through legal action. Shurat HaDin represents hundreds of victims in cases against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbullah, the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and numerous financial institutions such as UBS AG, the Lebanese-Canadian Bank, American Express Bank, and the Bank of China. Our main goals:
- Stop the flow of terror money through massive civil suits and other legal action;
- Defend the victims of terror and their families, by representing them in court, seeking disbursement of funds and implementation of rulings;
- Educate the broader public about terrorism and terror funding through missions, public lectures, publications, targeted mailings, and our website.
As with the diplomatic and military fronts, the financial war on terror is a never-ending effort. Thwarted in their attempts to do business through normal banking channels, terrorists and their sponsors constantly look for ever-more-clever ways to raise funds and transfer them to their home base. Shurat HaDin is at the forefront of taking the fight to the enemy, tracking both the sources and channels of funding and filing court action wherever we can. But beyond litigation, Shurat HaDin seeks also to educate financial institutions around the world about how terror funding works — and how they expose themselves if they choose to turn a blind eye. Above all, Shurat HaDin looks to educate, and fight for the rights of, the victims of terror, who rarely know they have legal recourse against the world’s most vicious criminals. We are empowering the victims, and teaching them to fight back.
The results of our efforts have been phenomenal, including:
- Over $1 Billion in judgments against terror organizations and state sponsors.
- Over $600 million in terror assets frozen — money which would otherwise have made its way to Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and other terror groups. Compare this with the roughly $140 million frozen as a result of U.S. government action in the same period, and it will become clear how effective private civil suits can be.
- Over $120 million in recoveries, money that went directly to the victims and their families— many of whom have lost, along with their dearest loved ones, the basis of their livelihood.
However, the most important effect of Shurat HaDin’s efforts have been to put a massive roadblock in the path of terror funding. Whereas just a decade ago, terror money flowed freely throughout Western financial institutions and into the hands of terrorists, today the fear of court-ordered seizures resulting from civil suits has forced:
- Hamas and other terror groups not to use the banking system in any way but rather to smuggle their money into Gaza through underground tunnels and suitcases;
- Iran to pull its assets out of Europe, shifting its business to Asia; obstructing its use of hard currency;
- and a great many banks to refuse to do business with terror-funding organizations, thoroughly investigate before opening new accounts with suspicious groups, and closing down accounts which are suspected to be identified with terror organizations.
Indeed, the lawsuits have sent a shockwave throughout the international banking system, with many of the formerly reluctant financial institutions now fearful of massive civil liability and seeking the guidance of Western intelligence services concerning the identities of their customers. This has had a withering impact on terrorism itself: According to one high ranking Mossad official, Shurat Hadin’s legal activities have reduced actual terror activity in the Gaza Strip by as much as 60 percent.
Defending Human Rights
As a Jewish civil rights organization, Shurat HaDin is serving as a leading public interest advocate by providing pro bono representation to a wide range of Jewish causes, including actions on behalf of: the families of 12 Jews imprisoned in Iran; IDF officers accused of war crimes in the course of their military service; IDF soldiers accused of employing unnecessary force against Palestinian rioters; and Palestinian agents who assist the Israeli security services in preventing terrorism. Shurat Hadin is proactive in influencing government policy and securing legal precedents that will safeguard and advance the interests of Israeli society.
Our Director, Att. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
Since 1997, Israeli activist attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner has been leading the struggle to fight the Palestinian and Islamic terrorist organizations in the courtroom. As the director of the Israel based civil rights group, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, she is currently representing hundreds of terror victims in lawsuits and legal actions against the HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority, the PLO, Hizbollah, Iran, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, UBS, The Arab Bank, Bank of China, and LCB. The cases, being litigated in the Israeli, American, Canadian and European courts, allow the victims of terrorism to fight back.
A mother of six, including triplets, Darshan-Leitner is a graduate of the Bar-Ilan University Law Faculty and holds an MBA from Manchester University. She regularly appears in the media including Israeli talk show programs, Voice of Israel radio, CNN, the BBC, European television, the Jerusalem Report and many American, Canadian and European publications.
Shurat HaDin is a fully independent non-profit organization, unaffiliated with any political party or governmental body.