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Senate votes to allow compensation for terror victims, re-authorizes Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a comprehensive bill that would allow terrorism victims to collect compensation, set new laws to prevent sex trafficking rings, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

The measure, approved by a vote of 95-0, passed the House last Friday and is expected to be signed by President Clinton.

As part of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired a few weeks ago, the Senate allocated more than $3 billion over the next five years for programs like women's shelters, rape prevention centers and a national domestic violence hotline.

Kennedy
Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke in support of the bill.  

Since passage of a 1996 anti-terrorism law, victims have been able to sue nations in U.S. courts for acts of terrorism, but many have been unable to collect damages because a country's assets were frozen by the U.S. government.

The compensation bill frees up those assets and helps people like former journalist Terry Anderson, who spent six years as a captive of Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon. He was awarded $100 million in his lawsuit against Iran, but has not seen the money because the country's assets remain frozen.

"What this has all been about in the beginning is trying to make terrorism expensive -- trying to make Iran understand that if it pays for these acts, it's going to be expensive," said Anderson.

Other high-profile cases of U.S. citizens suing other nations include the families of the "Brothers to the Rescue" pilots shot down near Cuba, and the father of Alisa Flatow, killed in a 1995 bus bombing in Jerusalem. Stephen Flatow sued the government of Iran and won $247.5 million in March 1998, but has been unable to collect the money.

In its new form, the Violence Against Women Act would fund programs to fight the new problem of cyber-stalking. Another part of the legislation aims to end international trafficking of women and children into sex, trade, slavery and forced labor by increasing harsher U.S. penalties.

The measure's sponsors said new laws are necessary because women brought to the United States against their will do not have legal immigration status, and they are often punished more harshly than those who transport them.

The legislation, which authorizes more than $94.5 million over two years to combat the problem, establishes a reporting system at the State Department for sex trafficking rings, provides money for shelters and rehabilitation programs and creates a new visa for victims of trafficking who cooperate with law enforcement.

Thompson
Sen. Fred Thompson tried to strike a provision from the bill, but was unsuccessful.  

"This legislation removes the unfair barriers that currently hinder the ability of battered immigrants to escape domestic violence safely and prosecute their abusers," said Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.

Also included in this comprehensive legislation is "Aimee's law," which would require states that prematurely release a convicted murderer, rapist or child molester from prison to pay the cost of prosecuting and jailing the criminal if he commits a crime in another state.

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, tried to strike this provision, calling it unconstitutional because it interferes with states' rights. His effort failed, 90-5.

The conference report also grants states attorneys the authority to use federal courts to enforce Internet alcohol sales when shipped across state lines.

 
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Wednesday, October 11, 2000


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