September 26, 2020

D.C. judge awards $622m to victims of 1998 embassy bombings


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US-Embassy-Bombing-Tanzania-1998By Nate Beck and Zoe Tillman, From Legal Times

A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday awarded $622 million to victims of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, resolving the last remaining claims against the governments of Iran and Sudan for their role in the attack.

U.S. District Judge John Bates has handed down billions of dollars in damages awards in recent years to victims of the 1998 bombings at the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed hundreds and injured thousands. In July, he awarded $8 billion to victims of the attacks and their families, both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Bates wrote that although the court’s role in determining liability and damages for the 1998 attacks was over, “the story is hardly over for the victims of these attacks, who not only must continue the effort to actually recover their awarded damages, but, more importantly, must also continue to live with the devastating consequences of these callous acts.”

Bates wrote,

That, after all, is the design of such terrorist activity—to inflict present and future fear and pain on individuals and governments. The court commends the dedicated, creative, and courageous resolve of all plaintiffs—and their conscientious attorneys—in the cases brought against the terrorists responsible for the embassy bombings and their supporters. They have helped to ensure that terrorism, and its support by defendants, will not ultimately succeed in achieving its long-term goals.

Judges in the D.C. federal district court have awarded more than $20 billion in damages against Iran in state-sponsored terrorism cases since 2008, according to reporting by The National Law Journal. Earlier this week, one of Bates’ colleagues awarded $453 million in damages to victims of the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

U.S. District Senior Judge Royce Lamberth signed off on the award Tuesday after ruling in 2013 that Iran aided the terrorists responsible for the bombing. A truck strapped with about 2,000 pounds of explosives evaded a sentry post and ignited outside the barracks on Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 service members and wounding many others.

“This dastardly attack on service members who were deployed as peacekeepers is the largest incidence of state-sponsored terrorism against the United States prior to 9/11,” Joseph Peter Drennan, lead attorney for the plaintiffs said Wednesday.

The D.C. federal trial court has awarded more than $9 billion to Beirut bombing victims and their families after ruling in 2003 that Iran was liable under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for supporting terrorists behind the attack, Drennan said.

Drennan said plaintiffs in the case Lamberth ruled on Tuesday will split $1.75 billion in frozen Iranian assets held in New York bank accounts with plaintiffs from similar terrorism rulings against Iran.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in July ruled in favor of victims in state-sponsored terrorism cases claiming those assets. Iran’s state-run Bank Markazi plans to challenge the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in Tuesday’s case will receive about $25 million from the New York funds, according to Drennan. The rest will be sought in future collection efforts.

“I think the way to deal with state-sponsored terrorism is to make it such an expensive proposition that the cost will outweigh the benefits,” Drennan said.

Lamberth appointed a special master to filter through damages claims. The court awarded victims and their families $102 million in compensatory damages and $351 million in punitive damages.

“The court concludes that defendant Iran must be punished to the fullest extent legally possible for the bombing in Beirut,” Lamberth wrote in his ruling Tuesday. “This horrific act harmed countless individuals and their families, a number of whom receive awards in this lawsuit.”

The court awarded as much as $12 million to victims who suffered severe physical or psychological injuries. The court also denied damages to the estranged father of a bombing victim named in the case, according to court papers.

IMAGE: The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing. Photo: U.S. Department of State

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