US Supreme Court rules in support of Sudan in USS Cole bombing case
Ruling dismisses a US lower court decision that ordered Khartoum to pay $314.7m for victims
The US Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favour of Sudan in the USS Cole terrorist attack of 2000, dismissing $314.7 million in damages to be paid by Khartoum to American and Sudanese victims.
The decision from the highest court in the US was near consensus and overruled a decision by a lower court. Eight of the nine justices voted to dismiss the damage payments.
The USS Cole attack in 2000 killed 17 sailors and wounded 42 in the Yemeni port of Aden, with Al Qaeda claiming responsibility.
The lawsuit claimed Sudan was responsible because it acted as a safe haven and provided material support to Al Qaeda.
But a copy of the lawsuit was mailed to Sudan’s embassy, which was interpreted by the Supreme Court as being in breach of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
The Trump administration urged the judges to strike down the lower court decision, Reuters reported.
The US was concerned it “could affect how the US government is treated by foreign courts, because the US rejects judicial notices delivered to its embassies".
The lawsuit was brought in a Washington court in 2010 by 15 sailors injured during the attack.
Tuesday's ruling said that the US Supreme Court "deeply sympathises with the extraordinary injuries suffered" but “there are circumstances in which the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements", such as refraining from sending the lawsuit to the embassy.
The justice who voted in favour of the victims, Clarence Thomas, said: “There is no evidence in this case suggesting that Sudan's embassy declined the service packet addressed to its foreign minister”.
Relations between the US and Sudan have been thawing slightly over the past three years under the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
But last week, a Congressional delegation visited Sudan and said that while Khartoum had made some progress in freedom of worship, it should release all political prisoners.
Sudan’s authoritarian leader Omar Al Bashir has ruled the country for 30 years, and declared a state of emergency last month in response to popular protests against his rule.
Mr Obama’s quiet engagement with Khartoum started in 2015, when he loosened some sanctions. In September 2017, the Trump administration lifted a 20-year sanctions regime on Sudan.
The CIA opened an office in the African country in the spring of 2017.
While the US State Department still lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terror, Washington’s engagement with Khartoum is based on factors including an end to hostilities in the country's conflicted regions.
It also wants better humanitarian access throughout Sudan, no interference in South Sudan, co-operation with regional efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army, and to build US-Sudanese co-operation on counter-terrorism.
Updated: March 27, 2019 08:45 AM