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US Reinstates Sudan's Sovereign Immunity

US Reinstates Sudan's Sovereign Immunity

Tuesday, 22 December, 2020 - 06:15
The US Capitol building in Washington (File photo: Reuters)

Sudan's Justice Ministry said Tuesday the US Congress has moved forward on Washington's promise to end the African country's pariah status, passing legislation that grants Sudan some immunity from legal action by Americans against its involvement in militant attacks.

The Justice Ministry said in its statement that Sudan would receive $1.1 billion direct and indirect aid from the US, in addition to a $1 billion bridge loan to the World Bank to help clear Sudan´s arrears with the institution.

US lawmakers on Monday backed the legislation in a final step in a historic deal removing Khartoum from Washington's blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

The legislation was passed as part of the economic recovery and federal financing bill, which both chambers voted on late Monday evening. However, it excluded lawsuits by the families of victims of Sept. 11, 2001, allowing the courts to move forward.

A number of senators, including Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), opposed the decision to exempt Sudan from lawsuits filed in US courts by the families of the victims of 9/11.

The Congress and State Department were able to overcome the differences and agreed to pass sovereign immunity as part of the agreement between the Congress and the US administration.

The bill will become effective as soon as US President Donald Trump approves and signs it.

It will release the compensation funds negotiated between the US State Department and the Sudanese government for the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and the 2008 murder of John Granville.

The agreement will provide a $335 million settlement to over seven hundred victims and family members.

Senators Menendez and Schumer issued a statement welcoming the agreement and the endorsement of sovereign immunity.

They indicated that the approved Sudan Claims Resolution Act (SCRA) accomplishes four crucial objectives: it fully preserves and protects the legal claims of 9/11 families – claims the Trump administration attempted to eliminate; it restores Sudan’s sovereign immunity; it unlocks and ensures equal compensation for and treatment of all US citizen victims and families of the East Africa Embassy bombings, and advances the interests of victims of terrorism more broadly.

They stressed the importance of the US-Sudanese relations and considered that the strategic interests of the United States and the interests of national security lie in supporting Sudan's transition to democracy.

However, they reiterated that this support should not come at the expense of protecting victims of terrorism and the rights of US citizens.

The Sudanese Foreign Minister-designate Omar Gamar al-Din said he was confident the legislation would be passed, describing it as a complement to the decision to remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

The Minister told reporters in Khartoum that the move ends the darkest chapters in Sudan's history, indicating that it was a result of a joint effort between the government and the US administration and Congress.

He explained that the sovereign immunity legislation is a culmination of the efforts that led to Sudan's removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and a continuation of work that is a priority for the transitional government.

The Minister described the move as the beginning of solving some of Sudan's problems saying it allows the country to achieve its goals during the transitional period.

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