Monday, February 13, 2023

13-Feb-23: Three thousand five hundred days of thwarted US justice

Jordan's refusal to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the United States, despite her being responsible for the horrific 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria that killed 15 people, including two Americans (one of them our daughter Malka Chana Roth), is a clear breach of the 1995 extradition treaty signed - and in effect since that time right up until today - between the two countries. 

The US Department of Justice brought charges against Tamimi in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 15, 2013. That's 3,500 days ago as of today. 

At the US government's request, those charges were immnediately sealed by the court once they were signed off. This meant they were kpt secret.  

They remained secret - even from the families of the victims of the atrocity, which includes Frimet and Arnold Roth who co-write this blog - for the following four years. 

They were eventually unsealed on March 14, 2017, in a Washington media announcement that featured tough and principled language by determined American law enforcement officials. 

But just six days later in Amman's Court of Cassation, a Jordanian judge handed down a decision declaring the long-active 1995 Jordan/US extradition treaty invalid

As Aljazeera reported, the decision meant Tamimi's extradition to face charges in Washington for her role in the Sbarro bombing was permanently blocked under Jordanian law. This was a contentious finding and one plainly contradicted by facts that we ourselves later discovered by suing the State Department of the United States in a 2012 suit pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. (Two requests made by us under FOIA had earlier gone unanswered.)

The basis on which Jordan's Court of Cassation - the kingdom's most senior appellate court - relied is not some inherent flaw in the treaty. It pointed instead to a flaw created by Jordan itself. It's a flaw that relates to the ratification of the treaty, an essential step in the treaty-making process for both sides. 

The United States has been clear at all stages that the treaty was ratified by Jordan and that Jordan communicated that ratification to Jordan. But even if that's wrong (and the evidence plainly shows that it's not wrong), Jordan has had more than a quarter century to fix the alleged flaw. In fact, it's a flaw only Jordan can fix but has chosen not to fix. That said, it's not too late: everything that needed to be done to render the 1995 treaty valid and binding under Jordanian law could be done this afternoon. Or tomorrow.

For obvious reasons, that isn't going to happen. 

Jordan's leaders needed the long-standing treaty to be non-biding on them once the hot-potato Tamimi case landed on their desks. The court ruling gives them an easy way out of a difficult bind. Tamimi is hugely popular in Jordan ["24-Nov-18: How Jordan's mainstream media showcase a couple of role-model jihadist murderers"] and the idea of Jordan handing her over to US law enforcement officials, which is what they have done time and again when facing previous American extradition requests, is hard to do.

We said the court ruling made things easy for Jordan's leadership. But that's only true because the US has shown incomprehensible patience with its Jordanian ally. In the years since the charges were handed down in 2013 by a US Federal court, there is not a single instance of any US official publicly calling on the Jordanians to honor their treaty obligation. This is unprecedented.

Given the importance of the US-Jordan relationship and the heinous nature of the crime for which Tamimi faces charges, the US Congress should years ago have insisted that the Administrations (first Obama, then Trump, then Biden) remind Jordan of its treaty obligation to extradict Tamimi. The fugitive terrorist, murderer of innocent Americans, must be sent to American justice. Congress and the White House should do it today. But they haven't and they don't.

For its part, Jordan has failed to take any steps to rectify this situation, despite the obvious harm it causes to the victims and their families. Jordan continues to flout its obligations with impunity right up until today.

As the parents of one of the American children murdered there that day, we have repeatedly - and fruitlessly - called on US politicians, diplomats and officials to act. It's been an agonizing process.

By failing to act as it has since 2017 when the charges and Jordan's disgraceful recalcitrance became part of the public record, the US Congress has been derelict in conveying a vital message: that the lives of American citizens are precious and neither treaty obligations nor justice are matters for cheap political posturing by the Jordanians. 

If there is another way of looking at this, no senior American public figure has stated it. The United States must take action to ensure justice is served for the victims of this heinous crime. The Jordanian government, which receives more foreign aid than any other country, must be held to account for its shameful breach of the 1995 treaty. 

It is already years late. But not too late for members of the US Congress to finally stand up for US justice. Nothing can justify allowing Jordan to dishonor its legal and treaty obligations in the Tamimi case and for there to be no US push-back. The dishonor and the disgrace have gotten a blind US eye for far too long.


Please consider expressing your support for justice in this searing case by signing the petition at

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