Advocacy update

U.S. District Court Blocks Seizure of $3.5B of Afghan Assets in New Ruling

February 21, 2023
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NEW YORK—Today, the District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that $3.5B in Afghan central bank (DAB) assets should be preserved for the sole benefit of the Afghan people, rather than seized to satisfy court judgments obtained against the Taliban.

The decision comes after the Open Society Justice Initiative intervened in the case, filing an amicus brief arguing that the funds belong to the Afghan people, and not the Taliban, and cannot be confiscated on their behalf. The brief, filed on behalf of Naseer Faiq, Afghanistan’s sole diplomat based in the United States, affirmed that the victims of the tragedy on 9/11 deserve compensation, but that price should not be paid by the Afghan people, who have long suffered at the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and are now suffering through a grave humanitarian crisis.

The court held that the 9/11 plaintiffs are “entitled to collect on their default judgments and be made whole for the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, but they cannot do so with the funds of the central bank of Afghanistan.” Pursuant to U.S. law and the constitution, it added that it is “the Taliban—and not the former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Afghan people” who must pay for the Taliban’s liability in the 9/11 attacks.

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative, said: “Today’s judgment reaffirms the arguments in the brief we filed that, while victim families deserve justice for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is the Taliban, not the Afghan people through their funds in the DAB, who must provide this compensation.”

“This decision rightly recognizes that the Taliban is responsible for the heinous attacks of 9/11, not the Afghan people," added Natasha Arnpriester, a lawyer with the Justice Initiative." It ensures that the assets of Afghanistan are not unjustly targeted and upholds accountability for the Taliban in a manner that is consistent with U.S. law.”

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