Economy

US embassy blast victims seek award from French bank

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Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The victims through Katiba Institute have petitioned the High Court for an order directing Kenya to seek compensation from the French bank and Sudan within six months.
  • The compensation relates to al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
  • They tie their suit to the bank’s admission in a US court of violating economic sanctions against Sudan, which was accused of harbouring al-Qaeda, mostly during the 1990s.

Victims of the 1998 bombing of US embassy in Nairobi are seeking a court order to compel the Attorney-General to pursue compensation from top French bank, BNP Paribas, and Sudan.

The victims through Katiba Institute have petitioned the High Court for an order directing Kenya to seek compensation from the French bank and Sudan within six months in a suit that could trigger diplomatic tensions.

The compensation relates to al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

They tie their suit to the bank’s admission in a US court of violating economic sanctions against Sudan, which was accused of harbouring al-Qaeda, mostly during the 1990s.

They cited a US court’s finding that without Sudan’s support, al-Qaeda could not have perpetrated the attacks.

Close links between Khartoum and BNP Paribas--which has been accused of operating as the “central bank for the government of Sudan,”—has landed the French lender in trouble, forcing it into $8.9 billion (Sh957 billion) settlement with US authorities.

Some of the money went to people harmed by Sudan, but excluded victims of the 1998 US embassy bombings on a legal technicality.

“An order directed at the Attorney General to within six months… obtain compensation for victims from Al-Qaeda assets and BNP Paribas S.A., a global financial institution headquartered in Paris,” the petition in the Kenya High Court says.

“File an international jurisdiction case for compensation of all victims and their families against the Republic of Sudan.”

In March, it was announced that Sudan had paid $335m (Sh36 billion) as compensation for victims of past attacks against US targets.

But the deal - a key condition set by the US for Sudan to be removed from its list of State sponsors of terrorism - only includes punitive damages to families of victims or those injured who are US nationals or US embassy workers.

The majority of the estimated 5,000 people injured in the twin bombings to hit the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998 will not get any money. Neither will the families of the more than 200 locals who died in the blasts.

Each American victim or family of the US embassy attacks will receive $3m (Sh322 million), while locally employed staff will receive $400,000 (Sh43 million), the US media reported.

In total, 85 survivors or families of victims will be compensated.

Sudan admitted culpability in the attacks after being accused of giving al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden technical and financial support in the 1990s.

Its removal from a US blacklist allows the country to get badly needed debt relief, foreign investment and loans from international financial institutions.

“The petitioners are aggrieved that while the United States of America have pursued compensation from Al-Qaeda assets and BNP Paribas for its citizens, Kenya has been unwilling to purse compensation for the Kenyan victims,” the Kenya victims said in court documents.

The French banking giant has faced multiple suits and inquiry into its financial dealings with Sudan.

Last year, Paris prosecutors opened an investigation into BNP Paribas over allegations of complicity in crimes against humanity in Sudan.

The probe cames after nine Sudanese plaintiffs, who said they have been victims of rights abuses by ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government, filed a legal complaint against BNP Paribas.

The plaintiffs allege the French bank was complicit in crimes against humanity because it provided financial services for the Sudanese government.

They argue that in a US sanctions violations case the US Department of Justice described BNP Paribas as Sudan’s de facto central bank from 1997 to 2007 because it gave the Sudanese government access to international money markets, and the means to pay staff, the military and security forces.