Iraq v. Beaty

On March 25, 2009, CJA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the cases Simon v. Iraq and Beaty v. Iraq, consolidated by the Supreme Court as Iraq v. Beaty.


Simon v. Iraq involved claims brought by U.S. citizens—including CBS news correspondent Bob Simon—who were taken hostage by the Iraqi government and severely tortured during the 1991 Gulf War.  Beaty v. Iraq was brought by the children of Kenneth Beaty and William Barloon—U.S. citizens in Kuwait who were detained by the Iraqi government after the Gulf War. In April 1993, Beaty was held by Iraqi border guards and held and abused in Baghdad for 205 days. Similarly, in 1995, Barloon was detained by Iraqi border guards, held and abused for 126 days, and subjected to a mock execution.

Procedural Posture

In Beaty, the Republic of Iraq moved to dismiss the case, claiming that President George W. Bush had restored Iraq’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits when he issued a determination in the 2003 Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act (EWSAA) that the state sponsor of terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA) no longer applied to Iraq. The district court denied the defendant’s motion, citing a circuit court decision in Acree v. Iraq which held that the EWSAA was originally intended to suspend economic sanctions, not to repeal the state sponsor exception to the FSIA; the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed.

In Simon, the district court reached very similar conclusion, but it ruled that the claims were not timely filed and barred by the political question doctrine. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court ruling and restored the suits.  The Republic of Iraq then brought the issue to the Supreme Court. The question put before the court was whether the respondents had the right to bring their human rights claims in U.S. courts under the state sponsor of terrorism exception to the FSIA.

Our amicus brief put forth the following arguments: (i) Under international law, victims of torture have a right to seek redress in U.S. courts; (ii) Under international law, perpetrators of torture should not be immune from civil liability; and- (iii) U.S. law should be interpreted in a manner consistent with international law whenever possible.


On June 8, 2009, in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the government of Iraq is immune from suit.  The Court found that the district court lost jurisdiction when, in 2003, President Bush exercised his EWSAA authority to render Section 1605(a)(7) of the FSIA inapplicable to Iraq.  In other words, the exception of the FSIA that would have allowed Iraq to be sued as a “state sponsor of terrorism” for human rights violations under the regime of Saddam Hussein was repealed on a retroactive basis.

Legal Documents

CJA Amicus Brief
25 Mar 09 Amicus Brief: CJA In Support of Respondents
Related Documents
08 Jun 09 Supreme Court Opinion
2009 Amicus Brief: U.S. Government
  Brief for Respondents: Simon et al.
Brief for Petitioner: Republic of Iraq
24 Jun 08 D.C. Circuit Opinion in Simon v. Iraq