Last week on Friday, it was reported that a US judge recommended that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks not be allowed to seize billions of dollars of assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank to satisfy court judgments they obtained against the Taliban. US Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn added that Da Afghanistan Bank was immune from jurisdiction, and that allowing the seizures would effectively acknowledge the Islamist militant group as the Afghan government, something only the U.S. president can do.

Regardless of the technical and jurisdictional factors behind this recommendation by the judge, this is a positive development as many believed that the families pursuing this case had no claim on the money in the first place. It remains to be seen what the final conclusion of this matter is now that this recommendation will be reviewed by U.S. District Judge George Daniels who is overseeing the litigation and will have the final say.

This recommendation comes as a defeat for four groups of creditors that sued a variety of defendants, including al-Qaeda, they held responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, and obtained default judgments after the defendants failed to show up in court. The groups have been trying to tap into some of the $7 billion of Afghan central bank funds that are frozen at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Earlier in February, US President Joe Biden gave an executive order to set aside $3.5 billion “for the benefit of the Afghan people,” leaving victims to pursue the remainder in court.

However, one must question whether the US has the authority to apportion these funds in this manner in the first place as this money belongs to the Afghan people. Several countries and human rights advocates have emphasised that the frozen funds should be released to help stabilise Afghanistan’s ravaged economy and prevent a humanitarian crisis. The hope is that this case comes to the morally right decision and that these funds are released at the earliest to ease the suffering of the Afghan people.