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US victims of 1998 embassy bombings push for concluding settlement deal with Sudan

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June 2, 2020 (WASHINGTON) – The families of American victims of the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania are throwing their full support behind a proposed settlement agreement with Sudan that would lead to more than $300 million payout in return for ending the pending lawsuits and removing the country from the US list of states that sponsor terrorism.

The blast on August 7, 1998 at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, killed more than 200 people. Kenyan security guards keep watch on August 8, 1998, at the scene of explosion. (CNN)

“As a longtime advocate and spokesperson for the families of the 12 Americans killed in these bombings, I am speaking publicly to support the administration’s diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement with Sudan’s new government to resolve all of the claims we and others — Americans, Tanzanians and Kenyans — have pursued in court in the years since the attacks” Edith Bartley wrote in the Washington Post.

“The search for justice is very personal to me. My father, Julian L. Bartley, the first African American consul general to serve our country in Kenya, was a highly respected career diplomat. My younger brother, Julian L. Bartley Jr., was a college student and summer intern at the Nairobi embassy. Both were killed in the terrorist attack. This was an unimaginable loss to me and my mother as my father and brother were half of my immediate family”.

U.S. courts held Sudan legally liable for the bombings because it hosted al-Qaeda terrorists in the 1990’s who carried out the attacks.

Last month the US Supreme Court revived the possibility of collecting $4.3 billion in punitive damage claims from Sudan on the embassy bombings on top of another $6 billion awarded previously. It also refused an appeal by Sudan to review the lower court rulings on its responsibility for the bombings and the liability it poses.

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US officials afterwards confirmed that a provisional agreement was reached with Khartoum to compensate the victims including non-Americans nationals who were also killed and injured.

Bartley acknowledged that the proposed compensation falls short of the court rulings but said that the deal “is modeled on the agreement with Libya reached in 2008 by President George W. Bush and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice”.

“Indeed, the Sudan proposal goes far beyond the Libya model by paying compensation to foreign nationals and family members who have been excluded from international claims agreements in the past” she added.

“We, the families of those Americans whose lives were cut short in August 1998, believe that the administration has been forthright with us in explaining the complex practical and legal obstacles it faces to resolve these claims and the need to support the new civilian government of Sudan. We believe that the administration has pressed Sudan hard, and that the resulting bilateral agreement will provide a measure of justice for all the victims and families”.

It is believed that this agreement would pave the way for delisting Sudan from the terror list but the Congress would have to approve it and pass a resolution reinstating Sudan’s sovereign immunity to prevent future lawsuits related to the terror bombings.

But the deal could be derailed by the African victims who insist on being treated the same as their American counterparts.

One of the representatives by the name of Eric Sapp issued a statement last week saying that the agreement “would set up a discriminatory payment structure whereby Sudan would be allowed to pay victims based on their nation of birth, rather than severity of injury”.

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“This would allow Sudan to avoid paying 1/3 of embassy bombing judgment holders entirely and would allow Sudan to pay African American citizen victims 25x less of their judgment on average than white American victims holders”.

Doreen Oport, who worked at the embassy in Kenya and was injured in the attack, said in a statement on behalf of similarly situated African victims that they presented a plan to Sudan and the U.S. State Department “that would allow Sudan to extend out payment of our judgments so that it can take advantage of the many economic opportunities that will arise once it is removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List.”

But Stuart Newberger, a Crowell & Moring LLP partner representing some of the American victims of the embassy bombings defended the deal saying that the US State department made efforts to resolve claims of foreign nationals.

“Normally, the U.S. government can only settle claims for U.S. citizens, but it has gone out of its way to get funds for non-American citizens who either worked for the embassy or worked for contractors of the embassy,” Newberger said in statements carried by Law360 website.

Many of the victims, who were diplomats, government employees and aid workers, understand the need for diplomacy at this pivotal moment for Sudan, Newberger said.

Matthew D. McGill, a Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP partner who has been representing a number of American and Tanzanian victims said that they appreciate the significance of Sudan agreeing to strike a deal.

“For many of the victims and their families, it is very personally meaningful to have Sudan pay, even if it’s not the full amount,” McGill told Law360.

Bartley said they have also witnessed “a willingness on the part of the new Sudanese government to distance itself from the terrorist conduct of its criminal predecessor”.

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It remains to be seen how Sudan will arrange for the settlement money given the dire economic situation and amid reports that Arab Gulf states were cool to the idea of helping.

Adding to the complication is that Sudan has virtually no assets in the US that can be seized to satisfy the judgements.

Analysts worry that unless the US moves to delist Sudan in the coming months, the transitional government formed under a power sharing deal between the civilians and the military could quickly unravel throwing the entire country into turmoil.

The U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton added Sudan to its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993 over allegations that then-President Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist government was supporting terrorist groups.

(ST)

Original full article available on the website → Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

Credits : Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan (https://www.sudantribune.com/) → Author : South Sudan PRESS REVIEW

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