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US Supreme Court stops $314.7 million Sudan pay-out to USS Cole victims

March 27 - 2019 WASHINGTON
Damaged caused to the US Navy destroyer USS Cole in a 2000 bombing attack by Al Qaeda (File photo: FBI.GOV)
Damaged caused to the US Navy destroyer USS Cole in a 2000 bombing attack by Al Qaeda (File photo: FBI.GOV)

In a ruling on Tuesday, the US Supreme Court prevented US sailors injured in the deadly Al Qaeda bombing in 2000 of the US Navy destroyer USS Cole* from collecting $314.7 million in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the attack.

A majority of eight judges to one overturned a lower court’s ruling that had allowed the US servicemen to collect the damages from certain banks that held frozen Sudanese assets.

The new decision shows a major victory for Sudan, which denies any assistance to Al Qaeda to carry out the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni coast.

However the new judgment rests more on a legal technicality than exonerating Sudan. In the ruling, the justices agreed with Sudan that the lawsuit had not been properly initiated in violation of US law, because the claims were delivered in 2010 to the Sudanese Embassy in Washington rather than to its Minister of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum.


The spokesman forthe Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Babiker El Siddiq, said that Sudan considered the new judgement an important step towards refuting the allegations on Sudan's links to terrorist operations.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has welcomed the US Supreme Court’s rule, affirming that it will continue to exert efforts with all the concerned national and international bodies continue to remove all distortions, allegations and false accusations made against Sudan.”

The spokesman stated that Foreign Minister, El Dirdeiri Mohamed Ahmed, attended the US Supreme Court hearing on 7 November, 2018 to prove that the court’s notice was not delivered to the Secretary of State as required by international law.

Sudan was backed by President Donald Trump’s administration in the case. The Trump administration had told the justices that a ruling against Sudan could impact how the US government is treated by foreign courts because the United States rejects judicial notices delivered to its embassies.

The US State Department’s Legal Adviser also presented a testimony in favour of Sudan.

* The October 12, 2000 attack killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the Navy guided-missile destroyer as it was refuelling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, blasting a gaping hole in its hull. The vessel was repaired and later returned to full active duty.

Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued Sudan’s government in 2010 in Washington. At issue was whether mailing the lawsuit to Sudan’s embassy violated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a US law governing when foreign governments may be sued in American courts.

(Sources: SUNA / Reuters)

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