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Jurisdiction Over States: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (Fsia)

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Chapter Summary

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) grants federal district courts jurisdiction over claims against foreign governments but only if the claim falls within a short list of enumerated exceptions to immunity. The plain language of the FSIA refers to states and "an agency or instrumentality" of a foreign state and so does not appear to apply to suits against individual officials. This chapter discusses the structure of the FSIA and the handful of human rights cases against foreign states litigated successfully under the exceptions for torts committed within the United States, commercial activities, and waivers of immunity. Most of the recent human rights cases against foreign states rely on the "state sponsors of terrorism" exception added in 1996 and analyzed in the chapter. The choice of law question is particularly complex in cases filed under the "state sponsors of terrorism" exception.

Keywords: Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA); foreign states; human rights cases



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