News Releases

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Isakson Measure to Compensate Iran Hostage Crisis Victims Passes Committee

Compensation would come from fines collected from violations of Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today applauded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous passage of his bipartisan legislation to properly compensate the American victims of the Iran hostage crisis using fines collected from violators of U.S. sanctions that bar economic dealings with Iran. The 52 Americans – including three who are Georgia residents – were held captive in Iran for 444 terrifying days in 1979-81.

Isakson’s legislation would direct the secretary of the Treasury, which enforces U.S. sanctions on Iran, to establish a specific account funded by Iran sanctions that would be dedicated to compensating the hostages. Isakson also secured procedural language in the Senate budget resolution that passed last week to help pave the way for his legislation.

“It has been one of my top priorities as a public servant to see to it that these Americans who were serving our country in Iran and were forced to endure unimaginable fear, despair and torture for 444 days receive overdue compensation for their suffering and sacrifice,” said Isakson, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “I am pleased this measure has the support of Chairman Corker and the State Department, as well as my colleagues from both sides of the aisle. The Iran hostages sacrificed mightily for our country, and I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this legislation to demonstrate our support to the brave men and women who represent our country abroad.”

Isakson believes the 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days when Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1979 deserve more than the meager compensation they received upon their release more than 30 years ago. Many of the hostages were terrorized and subjected to torture while held captive. In 1981, the hostages were freed as part of a negotiation known as the Algiers Accords, an agreement between the United States and Iran that settled the crisis but barred the hostages from seeking damages for their imprisonment. Five years after their release from Iran, the hostages received approximately $22,000 each, or $50 for each day held captive, from the U.S. government.

Isakson’s bill would allow hostages and their spouses to collect damages consistent with well-established legal precedents. Isakson’s legislation would compensate these Americans $6,750 for every day they were held as hostages, for a total of approximately $3 million per hostage. In addition, spouses of hostages would receive a lump sum of $600,000. The compensation would be financed from a surcharge added to fines and penalties assessed on any business or person that does business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions, or from other sources for compensation identified by the president.

Co-sponsors include Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

The former hostages have unsuccessfully sought to collect damages in court challenges spanning years. Three of the former hostages live in Isakson’s home state of Georgia.