Matar et al v. Dichter

Matar et al v. Dichter is a class action lawsuit brought against the former Director of Israel’s GSS, Avi Dichter. It charges Dichter with war crimes, extra-judicial killing and other gross human rights violations for his participation in the aerial bombing of a Gaza residential neighborhood. The suit charges that Dichter planned and directed the attack, and that GSS provided the necessary intelligence and gave final approval to drop a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in the middle of the night, which killed eight children and seven adults, and injured over 150 other people. Claims were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages against defendant Dichter for violations of state, federal, and international law.The plaintiffs include Ra’ed Matar, whose wife and three children (ages 1 ½, 3 and 5 years) were killed in the attack, as well as plaintiff Mahmoud Al Huweiti, whose wife and two sons (ages 4 and 5 years) were killed. Over 150 people were injured in the attack, including plaintiff Marwan Zeino, whose spinal vertebrae were crushed.

The attack occurred just before midnight on July 22, 2002, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dropped a one-ton bomb on al-Daraj, a residential neighborhood in Gaza City in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The attack was widely condemned by the international community, including the U.S. government, at the time.

Plaintiffs argue that Dichter, as a former foreign official acting outside the scope of his lawful authority, is not entitled to immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) or under common law. Plaintiffs further argue that to allow immunity for claims brought under the TVPA defeats the very purpose of the Act. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to rule on Plaintiffs argument that the FSIA does not apply to Avi Dichter. The Court stated that it would instead look to the common law.  Finding that “in the common-law context, we defer to the Executive’s determination of the scope of immunity,” the Court adhered to the Executive’s determination that it decline jurisdiction over this case.