Politics American terrorism victims reject Trump's Sudan deal

18:10  20 october  2020
18:10  20 october  2020 Source:   thehill.com

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American victims of terrorism are rejecting President Trump's plan to have Sudan pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle claims in exchange for dropping its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

a person wearing a costume: American terrorism victims reject Trump's Sudan deal © The Hill American terrorism victims reject Trump's Sudan deal

The majority of victims and the families of victims of the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the majority of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks say the Trump administration has isolated them and rejected their concerns in negotiations with Sudan.

Trump on Monday announced that the U.S. would lift Sudan's state sponsor of terrorism designation, a pariah status that bars the East African country from engaging with the international community, following the delivery of $335 million to compensate the embassy bombing victims.

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The move is part of Trump's efforts to have Sudan open relations with Israel in a foreign policy victory ahead of the Nov. 3 elections.

But the victims, many of whom were foreign nationals working for the U.S. embassies attacked by al Qaeda, say the administration's settlement discriminates against the locally employed embassy staff killed and injured.

Just 12 of the 250 people killed in the twin embassy bombings were Americans. More than 5,000 people were wounded.

U.S. courts in 2014 found that Sudan was liable for providing support to al Qaeda in carrying out the embassy bombings. The victims were awarded $10.2 billion in damages against Sudan, an amount upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in May.

But the Trump administration has negotiated directly with Sudan over settling claims of terrorism victims as part of the requirements for removing the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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Under that deal, each family of an American killed would get $10 million. Each injured American would receive $3 million.

Many families of African embassy staff killed in the bombings are now U.S. citizens. The deal would give families who suffered a death $800,000 a piece, and $400,000 per family for those that were injured.

"We want a resolution but cannot accept one that betrays so many U.S. embassy victims and the most basic principles of American justice," said Doreen Oport, who was an African employee of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and was badly burned in the 1998 attack. She is now an American citizen.

"Sudan's offer intentionally discriminates against victims with the least political clout."

Gavriel Mairone, an attorney for about 500 of the 700 victims of the embassy bombings, criticized the State Department for negotiating with Sudan on the deal without consulting the victims and said such a deal is likely to be struck down in U.S. courts.

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"Because these victims have final judgments, even an act by Congress seeking to enforce Sudan's offer over victims' objection would likely be struck down in Court because such an act would violate laws against discrimination based on nationality and the property rights of all judgment holders," Mairone said in a statement.

"Victims have sought to negotiate terms that would be fair and sustainable for the people of Sudan, but Sudan has thus far refused to attempt to reach a compromise which would work for all parties."

Victims of 9/11 say the administration's push for Congress to pass legislation shielding Sudan from certain terrorism-related claims will all but extinguish their efforts in U.S. courts. Suits by 9/11 families involving Sudan were filed in 2002 and 2004.

"The 9/11 families are counting on Congress to reject Sudan's plea that our pending lawsuits be wiped out and they insist it do nothing that would undermine them," Jack Quinn, counsel in the lawsuit of more than 2,500 Sept. 11 families against Sudan, said in a statement.

The Trump administration has been negotiating for more than a year with Sudan's transitional civilian-military government over removing the country from the terrorism list in part for support of the popular and grass-roots revolution that overthrew the 30-year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir.

The Sudanese government, which is on the brink of economic collapse, is eager for the terrorism designation to be removed and the opportunity to access badly needed debt relief from the international community. Sudan is estimated to be about $65 billion in debt.

Sudanese split over normalising relations with Israel .
Sudan's move to normalise relations with Israel has laid bare deep splits within society, with some bashing the deal as betrayal and others as a way to rescue the devastated economy. The move -- announced Friday -- came shortly after US President Donald Trump declared that Washington was formally moving to delist Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that strangled Khartoum's economy for decades. But the announcement revealed divisions between political forces in Sudan, currently undergoing a rocky transition since the April 2019 ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir following mass protests against his three-decade rule.

usr: 3
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