Legal warfare

Lawyer Stuart Newberger has devoted his life to fighting for families of terror victims – including those killed in UTA Flight 772 in 1989.

A memorial in the desert of Niger to the victims of UTA Flight 772 (photo credit: GOOGLE EARTH)
A memorial in the desert of Niger to the victims of UTA Flight 772
(photo credit: GOOGLE EARTH)
On September 19, 1989, all 170 passengers and crew were killed when a bomb explosion caused UTA Flight 772 to break up in midair over the Sahara Desert. Twenty years later, seven American families, whose loved ones lost their lives that day, got $10 million from Libya, whose terrorists carried out the attack.
The Forgotten Flight: International Terror, Diplomacy and the Pursuit of Justice tells the story of the worldwide investigation, including diplomatic and legal efforts to bring justice to these families, through the eyes of the author and one very determined lawyer: Stuart H. Newberger.
The worldwide struggle against terrorism has many faces and fronts. Most visible are the military and operative fronts.
Almost daily, we see pictures on TV and social media of soldiers (and civilian soldiers) fighting against terrorists in the Middle East and other parts of the world.
Every other day there is a declaration by a leader or a diplomat of the importance for the world to combat terrorism.
However, there is another frontier on which a quieter but equally strong fight is taking place – the legal frontier.
In the very legal world in which we live, the importance of law is clear. A combination of domestic and international laws draws red lines between legitimate and terrorist activities. Through these laws, states and international organizations demonstrate their commitment to the war against terrorism.
Another dimension of the legal fight against terrorism is the court procedures against terrorist organizations and terrorism- supporting states. In the last 25 years, victims and their families have sought justice through court procedures, mainly in the US, but in some cases in other countries as well. It could be conservatively estimated that more than $20 billion of compensative and punitive damages has been charged against states and organizations found responsible for terrorist attacks.
These procedures are not only a means of bringing justice to those whose lives were forever changed by terrorism, but also an important tool in the fight against terrorism. When these lawsuits are successful, and when governments that tend to support terrorism, such as in Iran, Syria and Sudan, and the Palestinian Authority, are held accountable, they begin to reconsider their terrorism strategies.
For almost two decades, Newberger has played a major role in the legal battle against terrorism and he depicts his efforts in The Forgotten Flight, a dramatic, sometimes shocking, real-life thriller.
Through a series of legal procedures against certain terrorist states, Newberger almost single-handedly has won millions in the name of American victims of terrorism.
And more importantly, he has achieved legal precedents in the field of law and terrorism.
The title of the book does not do it justice, for the work tells an amazing legal story in the most illegal, enticing way. The book is fast-paced drama that reads like a John le Carré espionage novel. If you start it, make sure you have nothing else to do, because you won’t be able to put it down until you finish.
Told with the utmost sensitivity, The Forgotten Flight takes the reader from the sandy dunes of the Sahara Desert, through the shady rooms of the French investigative judge’s office, to the winding corridors of the US political and diplomatic discussions, and to the US courtrooms.
The reader walks hand-in-hand with Newberger and the victims he is defending in their fight for justice.
The reader also learns about international law and the way it works, and unfortunately how cynical politicians are willing to forgo justice to promote their own agendas.
Reading this book gives a unique and rare perspective on the legal battle against terrorism and the brave and determined lawyers who have taken on this fight.
Dr. Shuki Friedman is the director of the Center for Religion, Nation, and State at the Israel Democracy Institute.