U.S. Strips Immunity From New Iraq Govt

By Jennifer Parker

Dec 19, 2007 1:58pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia and Matt Jaffe Report: The Iraqi government is reportedly furious with a measure passed by Congress that could hold the new Iraqi government responsible for torture or terror acts committed by the Saddam Hussein regime.

Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Samir Sumaida’ie told journalists Tuesday he has written a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to complain about the measure, passed as an amendment to defense policy legislation last week.

The Iraqi ambassador said the amendment would remove any immunity that covered the new Iraqi government against responsibility for acts committed by the Saddam Hussein regime.

ABC News obtained the text of the legislation, and while there is no specific mention of Iraq, it does mandate no immunity in U.S. courts for states considered "sponsors of terror" at the time of an act.

The legislation H.R. 1585 reads:
"A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of courts of the United States or of the States in any case not otherwise covered by this chapter in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for personal injury or death that was caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking, or the provision of material support or resources for such an act if such act or provision of material support or resources is engaged in by an official, employee, or agent of such foreign state while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency."

The ambassador said the amendment could mean fines and punishments for the Iraqi government that could reach into the billions of dollars.

He argued, as has his government for the past several years, that the new Iraqi government is not responsible for the actions of the previous regime and that they were already victims under Saddam and do not need to pay for his crimes.

The U.S. State Department said they oppose the amendment.

"We do and did oppose the amendment when it was first proposed," said State Department deputy spokesperson Tom Casey. "I think people are still studying the final language."

Sumaida’ie told reporters he believed the amendment was quietly slipped into the legislation. It isn’t clear who on Capitol Hill sponsored the amendment.

When asked about the amendment, an official in Senate Republican leader’s Mitch McConnell’s office said the amendment was part of the Defense Authorization Act the Senate passed last week, and blames the uproar on problems with the precise wording of the legislation, language that they are now trying to change: "There is an effort to fix it before it gets to the President," said the official.

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