US Court orders Sudan to recompense victims of Nairobi, Dar es Salaam bombings

Tuesday May 19 2020

US Embassy in Nairobi

An aerial view of the aftermath of the bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya's capital Nairobi on August 7, 1998. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
By MAWAHIB ABDALLATIF
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Sudanese authorities say they have not been compelled to give further compensation to victims of US embassy bombings in Kenya and Dar es Salaaam, yet, even after an American court reinstated punitive damages on Khartoum.

Sudanese Ministry of Justice said the ruling by the US Supreme Court on Monday about the terror incidents 22 years ago, did not confirm demand for more compensation to the plaintiffs under state law.

The ministry said in a statement that the ruling, issued in absence of Sudanese representation, is a reinstatement of a lower court decision that had “refrained from commenting on the validity of imposing punitive compensation under state law - not federal law - on the government of Sudan.”

The US Supreme Court re-imposed an earlier lower court decision in 2011 which awarded plaintiffs $10.2 billion in damages, which included $4.3 billion as punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to deter further wrongdoing.

Khartoum had appealed the decision, which was overturned in 2017, arguing the lower court had used a law passed after the fact.

Before the bombings, foreign countries could not be sued in US courts for punitive damages. However, such a law now exists, especially for countries that have been listed as state sponsors of terror.

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The bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam saw 224 (213 in Kenya) people killed and thousands others injured when trucks loaded with explosives drove through the gates of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility and Sudan was fingered for aiding its then leader Osama bin Laden and other militants to cross into Kenya.

The case went further to the Supreme Court.

Sudan says most of the punitive damages, which had been imposed on Sudan, amounting to $ 3.5 billion out of the total punitive damages of $4.3 billion, were imposed on the basis of the State-Law Punitive Damages, and not federal law.

“Therefore, the compensation of the punitive amount of $ 3.5 billion is still subject to litigation before the Court of Appeal between Sudan and the plaintiffs.”

Khartoum has argued that the size of the various compensation figures awarded by the court to plaintiffs under state law represents the largest portion of the total compensation amount that the court ruled in similar cases. That means $ 7.5 billion of the total amount of $10.2 billion in comprehensive compensation, including punitive damages and compensation for losses.

"Therefore, according to the Supreme Court decision issued Monday, the amount of $7.4 billion of the total absentee judgments amounting to $10.2 billion will be subject to litigation again between Sudan and the plaintiffs in these cases in the coming period," the ministry said in its statement.

Khartoum says it sympathised with the victims of the two terror attacks against the United States embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, but reiterated that it is not responsible for those acts.

However, on Monday the US Supreme Court ruled Khartoum could not avoid paying compensation for the bombing of two embassies of Washington in Kenya and Tanzania.

Under lawsuits in the United States, Sudan was charged with complicity in the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Eight judges voted unanimously to overturn a lower court decision in 2017 that Sudan pardoned disciplinary damages set, unlike about $6 billion in other compensation.

This case depended on the opinion of the Supreme Court in a 2008 amendment of a federal law known as the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that allows disciplinary compensation.

In 1993, Washington included Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism because the Brotherhood harboured Osama bin Laden's terrorist leader.

In1995, Washington closed its embassy in Khartoum as a kind of diplomatic embargo and in 1996, after one year it imposed comprehensive economic sanctions that Trump administration partly raised in October 2017.

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