News Releases

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Isakson Introduces Legislation to Compensate Iran Hostage Crisis Victims

Compensation Would Come From Fees Collected from Violations of Iran Sanctions, Would Not Add to the Nation's Debt

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today introduced legislation that would properly compensate the 52 victims of the Iran hostage crisis for the 444 days they were held captive. The compensation would come from fees collected from violations of Iran sanctions.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has signed on as the lead Democratic co-sponsor, making this legislation a bipartisan effort.

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 small 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 by the Algiers Accords—an agreement between the U.S. and Iran that settled the crisis—that barred hostages from seeking damages for their imprisonment.

A group of 45 former hostages have sought to collect damages in court challenges over the years, but their efforts have been halted by the Algiers Accords, which was the deal brokered between the United States and Iran to release the hostages and prohibits the hostages from suing Iran. Isakson’s legislation provides an alternative avenue for the victims to collect compensation without violating the Algiers Accords. Three of the former hostages live in Isakson’s home state of Georgia.

“The 52 men and women victimized by the Iran hostage crisis experienced unimaginable fear, despair and torture while being held captive for 444 days. It is unacceptable that this group has not received meaningful compensation for what they went through,” said Isakson. “The Oscar-winning film Argo has reminded us all of the sacrifices and risks that members of the Foreign Service make to serve our country overseas in some dangerous places. The Iran hostages sacrificed mightily for our country, and I urge Congress to pass this legislation to demonstrate our support the brave men and women represent our country abroad.”

Currently, the Department of Treasury enforces U.S. sanctions on Iran. Isakson’s legislation would direct the secretary of the Treasury to establish a fund that would be used to pay the claims to the hostages. The fund 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. Isakson’s bill would allow hostages or their family members to collect damages amounting to about $4.4 million each, or $10,000 for each day they were held captive. Five years after their release from Iran after being held for 444 days, the hostages received approximately $22,000 each, or $50 for each day held captive, from the U.S. government.

The Oscar-winning film Argo, which tells the story of how a CIA operative led the rescue of six U.S. Embassy employees from Iran during the Iran hostage crisis, has recently generated enormous public interest in the Iran hostage crisis. Isakson hopes to build on the momentum of the film to help the victims receive the compensation that they deserve.