The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today passed legislation to compensate the 52 victims of the Iran hostage crisis for the 444 days they were held captive when Islamists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
The hostages weren’t freed until the 1981 Algiers Accords, which barred them from seeking damages for their imprisonment.
However, the new bill would draw compensation for the victims from fees collected due to violations of Iran sanctions.
“The 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days deserve meaningful compensation for their horrendous captivity during the Iran hostage crisis, which unfolded on the nightly news 30 years ago and which has been brought back to light today by the Oscar winning film, Argo,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
“I urge my Senate and House colleagues to quickly pass this bipartisan legislation so that those who have suffered will finally receive what they rightfully deserve. Congress must also pass this bill to send a signal to our Foreign Service members that we have their backs,” he added, perhaps with a nod at the end to Benghazi.
Isakson’s co-sponsor on the bill, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said the victims “have waited another 30 years to receive the restitution to which they are entitled from the government of Iran.”
“These men and women deserve to be compensated for the unimaginable experience they endured, and today’s action by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee brings us one step closer to that reality,” Blumenthal said. “I applaud the Committee and Chairman Menendez for passing the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act.”
A group of 45 former hostages have sought to collect damages in court challenges over the years, but they’ve needed an alternative route to get compensation because of the accords.
The would direct the secretary of the Treasury, which manages sanctions on Iran, to establish a fund that would be used to pay the claims to the hostages, financed by a surcharge added to fines and penalties assessed on any business or person that violates sanctions.