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Victims of 1998 US embassy bombings still hope for billions


Lawyers representing hundreds of Kenyan and Tanzanian victims of the 1998 embassy bombings are optimistic that the United States Supreme Court will rule to award a total of $4.3 billion (Sh440 billion) to their clients.

The top US court agreed in June to take up the case during its term beginning in October.

A ruling on whether the multibillion-dollar payment must be made to the Kenyans and Tanzanians by the government of Sudan will be handed down sometime prior to June of next year.

At issue is an appeals court’s rejection in 2017 of the Sh440 billion award in punitive damages that a trial court had ordered as part of the $10.2 billion (Sh1.1 trillion) compensation from Sudan.

US courts have already agreed that Sudan is liable and awarded $5.9 billion (Sh600 billion) in compensatory damages and Sh440 billion in punitive damages to some of the Kenyans and Tanzanians harmed in the US embassy attacks. The punitive damages award was overturned by an appeals court.

‘PUNITIVE DAMAGE’

“If there was ever a case where punitive damages should be upheld, it is this one,” William Wheeler, a US attorney involved in the lawsuit, said on Tuesday.

The lower court’s ruling against payment of punitive damages reflected its view that a 2008 change in US law allowing for such payments could not be applied retroactively to the embassy bombings that had occurred 10 years earlier.

Under US law, compensatory damages are meant to compensate victims for their losses. Punitive damages serve as punishments levied against parties responsible for causing the losses.

A group of 570 individuals are plaintiffs in the case to be heard by the US Supreme Court. More than 300 of them are Kenyan citizens, 80 are Tanzanians and the remainder are African victims of the attacks who subsequently gained US citizenship.

All of those covered by this case were employed either by the US embassies in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam, or were working for private contractors who did business with the embassies.