Press release

New Court Filings Argue for Protecting Afghanistan’s Frozen U.S. Assets

October 19, 2023
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NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative has submitted legal arguments before a United States federal appeal court aimed at preserving the rights of the people of Afghanistan to $3.5 billion of the country’s foreign assets—funds that are at risk of seizure from private U.S. legal claims against the ruling Taliban. 

Several cases currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit center on dollar assets held by Afghanistan’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), which were frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department following the Taliban’s forceful takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

At the time, the U.S. Treasury Department justified the action as being necessary to prevent the Taliban from accessing reserves that “belong to the Afghan people.” 

Subsequently, victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States and other attacks linked to the Taliban have sought to claim these assets, based on judgments that resulted in awards against the Taliban from U.S. district courts. These judgments are so substantial that fulfilling them would deplete all of Afghanistan’s assets held in the U.S. several times over.

The appellate court is reviewing a lower court’s decision which concluded that these assets cannot legally be used to satisfy the U.S. victims’ claims.  

The Justice Initiative’s briefs assert that jurisdictionally U.S. law prohibits the use of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves for fulfilling these judgments.

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative, stated, “While we fully support justice for the U.S. victims of the Taliban’s atrocities, we firmly believe that the Afghan people, who have themselves been victims of the Taliban, should not bear the brunt of negative impact for these acts to which they hold neither moral nor legal responsibility.”

The appellants have until November 6, 2023 to respond to the Justice Initiative’s briefs.

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