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Baumel v. Syrian Arab Republic

November 3, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


This is an action brought on behalf of Zachary Baumel against the Syrian Arab Republic and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and certain of their officials for alleged hostage-taking and torture.*fn1 Syria moves to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and/or for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose. For the reasons explained herein, the motion will be granted under Rule 12(b)(6), and the case dismissed against all Defendants.


The facts are taken from Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [Dkt. # 50] and are assumed to be true. Mr. Baumel, a United States citizen, was a resident of the State of New York who relocated to Israel in 1970 and later joined the Israeli Defense Forces Armored Corps. On June 11, 1982, Mr. Baumel was captured by the Syrian Army or a Palestinian group loyal to Syria while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces Armored Corps in Southern Lebanon during war between Israel and Syria.*fn2 Thereafter, Mr. Baumel was taken to Damascus as a hostage of the Syrian Army, where he was displayed as a trophy of war, along with his tank and the other Israeli soldiers captured with him, in a victory parade. Mr. Baumel has not been seen by representatives of Israel, the United States Red Cross, or his family since. Nor has the United States, Israel, news agencies, or the International Committee for the Red Cross been given access to him.

Thereafter, Defendants claimed that Mr. Baumel had died and that they had buried his body with those of other captured Israeli soldiers in the Jewish cemetery in Damascus. With Syria's permission, the International Committee for the Red Cross assisted in the exhumation of four bodies that Syria claimed were bodies of the missing Israeli soldiers. Forensic analysis of the bodies indicated that only one was the body of an Israeli soldier, but not Mr. Baumel. The others were Arabs.

Upon Plaintiffs' "information and belief"

1. Mr. Baumel, his fellow Israeli soldiers, and their tank were taken to Damascus and were stationed in front of Syria's military offices. Thereafter, Mr. Baumel was incarcerated.

2. Mr. Baumel has been "immobilized; blindfolded; held in various and different places for months; transported from location to location; shackled; left in a constant state of disorientation and fear for his life; kept in solitary confinement; confined in cramped, airless rooms, permitted little or no exercise; given only minimal and infrequent access to toilet facilities; fed an unbalanced, monotonous and inadequate diet; physically abused; beaten with fists, guns and sticks; and subjected to verbal abuse, taunts and humiliation." Am. Compl. ¶ 33.

3. Mr. Baumel has been "threatened with death by his captors, denied proper medical attention and medication, denied contact with the outside world, including his family, friends and colleagues, and forced to endure severe physical discomfort, injury, mental anguish, depression, humiliation, anxiety, and pain and suffering." Id. ¶ 34.

4. Mr. Baumel has been "deprived of educational and employment opportunities and advancement, and has been unable to provide financially for his family during his captivity." Id. ¶ 35.

5. Mr. Baumel has been "deprived of the opportunity to socialize, meet and engage in social contact with people of his age for the purpose [of] social interchange and prospects of marriage and concerning the creation and raising of his own family." Id. ¶ 36.

Plaintiffs, Mr. Baumel's parents, siblings, and his next friend, sue all Defendants for battery (Count I), assault (Count II), false imprisonment (Count III), economic damages (Count IV), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count V), loss of solatium (Count VI), and punitive damages (Count VII). The Syrian Arab Republic, the only Defendant served, moves to dismiss.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a complaint to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). A complaint must be sufficient "to give a defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. The facts alleged "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. Rule 8(a) requires an actual showing and not just a blanket ...

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