US Supreme Court heaps more damages on Sudan in embassy bombing cases

US Supreme Court heaps more damages on Sudan in embassy bombing cases”

Victims of the 1998 bombings by al-Qaida of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are entitled to billions of dollars in punitive damages from Sudan, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. They were the first major attacks on USA targets by al-Qaida.

Lower courts concluded Sudan had, in fact, provided safe haven and support to al-Qaeda, which plotted the attacks from its soil. The case stemmed from a district court in Washington, which awarded the victims $10.2 billion (Sh1.1 trillion) in damages and $4.3 billion (Sh459.2 billion) in punitive damages. The Supreme Court, in turn, sided unanimously with the original ruling on Monday.

"It's hard to imagine an act more deserving of punitive damages, and we are deeply gratified that the Supreme Court has validated the right of our clients to receive this measure of compensation".

The more than 500 people involved in the case are mostly foreign citizens, either US government employees or contractors injured in the bombings or relatives of those who died.

The question before the court concerned a 2008 amendment to the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign governments from lawsuits, but also details the exceptions to such protection. Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused himself from the case.

Once the dust settled and the departed laid to rest, the victims and their family members sued the Republic of Sudan under the state-sponsored terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), alleging that Sudan had assisted the outlawed terrorist group, Al Qaeda, in perpetrating the attacks.

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The new government in Sudan in power following the 2019 overthrow of long-serving President Omar al-Bashir is keen to fix relations with the USA, which should help end its economic isolation. In his final days in office, then-President Barack Obama began lifting US sanctions against Sudan.

How much each of the victims of the tragic bombing where an estimated 200 Kenyan civilians were killed and 4,000 sustained injuries is not yet clear.

Siding with hundreds of people hurt and relatives of people killed in the bombings, the justices ruled 8-0 to throw out a lower court's 2017 decision that had freed Sudan from punitive damages awarded in the litigation in addition to about $6 billion in compensatory damages.

Litigation involving that large group of victims has been stalled in the United States court system for several years and is not expected to reach a settlement anytime soon. "We are hopeful that this soon will lead Sudan to reach a just and equitable resolution with its victims".

The case is Opati v. Sudan.

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