WASHINGTON- Today, Congressman Joe Walsh (IL-8) and Congressman Howard Berman (CA-28), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to uphold U.S. law and bring Palestinian terrorists who have killed and wounded Americans overseas to justice in American courts.
The Koby Mandell Act of 2005 established the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism at the Department of Justice for this very purpose. Yet, in the six years since this office was established, not one Palestinian terrorist has been indicted, extradited, or prosecuted, despite seventy-one instances of Palestinian terrorism that have killed 54 Americans and wounded 83 others.
In the letter, Walsh and Berman write: “We are writing to request that the United States Department of Justice take prompt and meaningful steps to enforce provisions of United States law that require the prosecution and punishment, in United States courts, of individuals who murder or maim American citizens in acts of international terrorism… Murder and assault of American citizens anywhere in the world must be promptly and effectively punished by the United States in United States courts under United States law. We call on you to carry out this obligation or explain why such prosecutions are not appropriate for the United States to pursue.”
The letter was co-signed by 52 members of Congress and it appears below:
The Honorable Eric H. Holder
Attorney General of the United States
Department of Justice
Robert F. Kennedy Building
March 1, 2012
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
We are writing to request that the United States Department of Justice take prompt and meaningful steps to enforce provisions of United States law that require the prosecution and punishment, in United States courts, of individuals who murder or maim American citizens in acts of international terrorism, such as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 USC Sec. 2332. The Government of Israel was recently forced, under extreme duress, to release from its prisons many individuals who participated in the murder and maiming of Americans (attached to this letter is a description of several such cases). The Department of Justice should (1) investigate those cases involving the murder of or infliction of serious bodily injury on American citizens ; (2) where evidence supports, indict those individuals complicit in the deaths of or infliction of serious bodily injury on Americans, (3) seek the extradition of, (4) try in American federal courts, and (5) punish these individuals.
The Justice Department’s record, in both successive Republican and Democratic administrations, with respect to terrorism committed in Israel and the neighboring territories is particularly disappointing given that the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (“OJVOT”), which was created by the 2005 passage of the Koby Mandell Act and had bipartisan support in the Congress, was named after a 13-year-old Maryland boy who was brutally stoned to death by terrorists in Israel in 2001. According to its official website and its press releases, the OJVOT’s purpose “is to ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”
Nonetheless, of the seventy-one cases of terror attacks resulting in American casualties in and around Israel since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Department of Justice has never indicted, extradited, or prosecuted a single Palestinian terrorist. In the more than six years since the OJVOT was originally established, it has assisted in the indictment of only one terrorist murderer of an American citizen – the killer of a Christian missionary in Indonesia. The number of American victims of attacks in Israel stands at 54 killed and 83 wounded. Neither the OJVOT nor any other section in the Department of Justice has, to our knowledge, done anything to enforce applicable American law in these cases.
In order to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was being held in violation of international law, more than a dozen Palestinian terrorists with American blood on their hands were released under duress by Israel in October 2011. Because of the circumstances of this forced release, their prosecution under American law is not precluded by principles of double jeopardy, and they should, if prosecuted, suffer the full consequences of having violated American law.
Murder and assault of American citizens anywhere in the world must be promptly and effectively punished by the United States in United States courts under United States law. We call on you to carry out this obligation or explain why such prosecutions are not appropriate for the United States to pursue.