US judge says 9/11 victims not entitled to Afghan bank assets | News

The judge said that the central bank’s seizure would recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

A US judge has recommended that the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks not be allowed to appropriate billions of dollars in assets of the central bank of Afghanistan to satisfy court rulings they obtained for the Taliban.

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, governments and international organizations froze the country’s central bank assets held abroad, totaling about $10 billion. About $7 billion of that is held in the US, and other countries hold about $2 billion.

Western governments have denied recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and money is still in limbo. Failure to recognize the Taliban government undermines their ownership of frozen central bank assets.

U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan on Friday said the Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) – the central bank – is exempt from jurisdiction. The judge said authorizing the seizure of the bank’s assets would acknowledge the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, something only the President of the United States can do.

“Taliban victims have fought for years for justice, accountability and reparation. They are entitled to no less,” judge Netburn wrote.

“But the law limits the amount of compensation a court can allow, and those limits put DAB’s assets beyond its jurisdiction.”

Netburn’s motion will be reviewed by Judge George Daniels of the United States District of Manhattan, who also oversees the litigation and may decide whether to accept her offer.

Failure for the creditor

Nearly 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001, when planes flew into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in northern Virginia, and a field in Pennsylvania.

Friday’s decision is a setback for four groups of creditors that have sued a series of defendants for whom they are responsible. September 11 attacks.

Attorneys for the creditor groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Following the Taliban takeover last year, a family group of about 150 American victims of the September 11 attacks said they owed about $7 billion from Afghan assets held by the New York Federal Reserve. hold.

That money was awarded by a federal judge in 2012 following a default judgment against a host of defendants – including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Iran – who did not appear in court.

At the time of the 2001 attacks, the ruling Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to operate inside Afghanistan.

The Taliban has repeatedly called on the United States and other governments and organizations Free up frozen bank fundssay they are needed to stabilize Afghanistan’s ravaged economy and avert a humanitarian crisis.

In an executive order in February, US President Joe Biden ordered the seizure of $3.5 billion in bank assets “for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan”, so that victims of the 11th attack could September must pursue the remainder in court.

The US government at the time took no position on whether groups of creditors were entitled to recover the funds under the US Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. It urged the judges. Netburn and Daniels consider the exceptions to sovereign immunity to be narrow, citing the risks of interference with the power of the president of the United States to conduct foreign relations, and the challenges that may arise. could happen to U.S. assets abroad.

Shawn Van Diver, head of #AfghanEvac, an organization that helps evacuate and resettle Afghans, said he hopes the frozen money can be used to help the struggling Afghan economy. not enrich the Taliban.

“The judge did the right thing here,” he said.

US sanctions prohibit financial business with the Taliban, but allow humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

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