BNP Paribas must face lawsuit over Sudanese genocide, US judge rules

Friday April 19 2024

A view of a BNP Paribas bank building in Paris, France on February 24, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS


BNP Paribas was ordered by a US judge on Thursday to face a lawsuit accusing the French bank of helping Sudan's government commit genocide between 1997 and 2011 by providing banking services that violated American sanctions.

US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan found "too many facts" showing a relationship between BNP Paribas' financing and human rights abuses perpetrated by the government.

He called it premature to decide whether it was reasonable to hold the bank responsible for causing some of those abuses, which according to the plaintiffs included murder, mass rape and torture, or whether it could have foreseen them.

Read: Mass grave found in Sudan

The proposed class action was brought by US residents who had fled non-Arab indigenous black African communities in South Sudan, Darfur, and the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan. They are seeking unspecified damages.

A spokesman for BNP Paribas declined to comment.


The bank had in 2014 agreed to plead guilty and pay an $8.97 billion penalty to settle US charges it transferred billions of dollars for Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban entities subject to economic sanctions.

While many banks have been accused of aiding in human rights abuses by providing banking services, BNP Paribas' guilty plea was the first by a global bank to large-scale violations of US economic sanctions, the Department of Justice said at the time.

Hellerstein said the bank's admission that its employees recognized its role in giving Sudanese entities access to the US banking system meant it could not now argue differently.

Read: Why outsiders won't let Sudan enjoy prosperity

The US government recognized the Sudanese conflict as a genocide in 2004.

Thursday's decision came in a lawsuit originally filed in 2016.

A different judge dismissed the case in 2018, but a federal appeals court revived it in 2019.