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Court upholds multi-billion dollar judgement against Sudan US Embassy bombings

The aftermath of the US Embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya in August 1998 [dni.gov/Wikipedia]

Sudan must pay $2.1 billion to American families after it was held legally responsible for the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, the US federal appeals court has ruled.

The Court of Appeal for the DC circuit upheld a lower court ruling that Sudan was liable to pay damages as Osama Bin Laden’s operatives, thought to be responsible for the bombing, continued to live in Sudan at the time of the bombings in 1998.  However, the courts threw out a claim of $4.3 billion in punitive damages sought by non-American families and has yet to decide what percentage of damages for non-American families are included in the original settlement.

The ruling, by Judge Douglas Ginsburg, rejected Sudan’s arguments that the court had considered “inadmissible evidence”.  Sudanese lawyers argued that the entire case should have been thrown out under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA), which would have excluded it from prosecution but the act was revised in the middle of the 15-year legal proceedings and the amendments allowed the prosecution to become possible.

The court took the side of expert witnesses who testified that Sudan provided a safe-haven for Bin Laden’s affiliates although the Al-Qaeda leader himself had left Sudan two years prior to the attacks.

Stuart Newberger, a lawyer for the family welcomed the decision: “We’re obviously very pleased that the D.C. Circuit has affirmed [a lower court] decision after what has been a long struggle in court of the families.”

We are hopeful that with this ruling, the Americans who were killed in [the attacks] get closer to reaching a final resolution to the tragic saga in their lives and finally get some closure.

In making the ruling the judge criticised Sudan’s unwillingness to respond to the lower court’s accusations, “on Sudan’s domestic troubles, the district court noted that ‘[s]ome of that turmoil… has been of the Sudanese government’s own making,’ but, regardless of blame, Sudan could not excuse at least six years of nonparticipation without sending a single communication to the court,” Ginsburg wrote citing the lower court decision rejecting motions to dismiss.

This article was updated on 02/08/2017 at 17:16 BST

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