The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACKSON
THOMAS PENFIELD JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This is an action to recover damages for death, personal injury, and the destruction of property occurring in the course of air strikes by U.S. military forces on targets in the nation of Libya in April, 1986.
Plaintiffs allege themselves to be 55 civilians, all residents of Libya, whose decedents were killed, who suffered personal injuries, or whose property was damaged or destroyed in the attacks. Defendants are the President of the United States, various civilian and military officials of the U.S. government, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, and the United States and the United Kingdom themselves. In substance, the complaint alleges that all defendants conspired, acted in concert with, and aided and abetted one another in causing or permitting the attacks to be made, with a purpose to assassinate the Libyan head of state, and/or to "terrorize" the civilian population of Libya to the point of revolt against his government. The defendants are, thus, alleged to have violated the criminal and civil laws of several U.S. states, of the United States, certain treaties, and rules of international law.
Jurisdiction is said to be predicated upon various provisions of Title 28 of the U.S. Code, specifically, sections 1331 (federal question); 1346(b) (the Federal Tort Claims Act); 1350 (the Alien Tort Claims Act); and 1361 (mandamus). Title 18, section 1964 (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act ("RICO")) is also said to confer jurisdiction.
All defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint, and for an award of sanctions.
The British defendants, the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Thatcher, are sought to be held liable because the British government gave permission for U.S. Air Force planes based in Great Britain to depart from and return to their air bases to participate in the mission.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 517 the United States has suggested to the Court the immunity from its jurisdiction of Prime Minister Thatcher as the sitting head of government of a friendly foreign state. The Department of State has made the requisite certification and determination to allow the immunity. The Court must accept them as conclusive. Ex Parte Republic of Peru, 318 U.S. 578, 589, 87 L. Ed. 1014, 63 S. Ct. 793 (1943); see Republic of Mexico v. Hoffman, 324 U.S. 30, 35, 89 L. Ed. 729, 65 S. Ct. 530 (1945). The complaint will be dismissed as to the defendant Thatcher.
With respect to the claims made against the United Kingdom itself, the act of state doctrine compels a dismissal of the complaint. Underhill v. Hernandez, 168 U.S. 250, 252, 42 L. Ed. 456, 18 S. Ct. 83 (1897); Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398, 11 L. Ed. 2d 804, 84 S. Ct. 923 (1964). What is charged is, quite simply, Britain's complicity in an illicit act of war committed by the United States. By any definition that description of the United Kingdom's allegedly wrongful conduct constitutes an archetypal act of state. Permission given by the head of government of one sovereign nation, speaking from its seat of government, to allow its territory to be utilized by an ally, at the ally's express request, to mount a military operation against a third power could not possibly be otherwise characterized. The Court concludes that the doctrine stands as an absolute bar to action against the United Kingdom, and it therefore becomes unnecessary to consider the several other jurisdictional objections it has advanced in support of its motion to dismiss.
The United States defendants also contend that this Court is without jurisdiction to entertain the claims against them, the issues presented being both non-justiciable "political questions" entrusted by the Constitution to the other branches of government, and the several defendants entitled to immunities which render them unamenable to such a civil suit for damages. The Court agrees that all U.S. defendants are immune from this suit and does not, therefore, reach the "political questions" issue.
The United States itself, as a sovereign, is immune from suit except to the extent it has waived its immunity, and a waiver of its sovereign immunity must be unequivocally expressed and never implied. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538, 63 L. Ed. 2d 607, 100 S. Ct. 1349 (1980). None of the statutory provisions relied upon by plaintiffs to maintain this action against the United States -- the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq.), the Alien Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. § 1350), the Foreign Claims Act (10 U.S.C. § 2734), and RICO (18 U.S.C. § 1964) -- purport to waive the sovereign immunity of the United States with respect to claims such as those made here.
The complaint will be dismissed as to the defendant United States.
The military units were ordered into action by President Reagan in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States under Article II, section 2, of the Constitution. In so doing he acted with absolute immunity from liability in private civil suits for damages. Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731, 73 L. Ed. 2d ...