In landmark judgments, the Washington, DC district court issued $8.6 billion in damages against Iran and Sudan for their role in al-Qaida's 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam that killed hundreds of people and injured thousands. The judgments covered four separate cases: Monicah Okoba Opati, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.; Milly Mikali Amduso, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.; Mary Onsongo, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.; Winfred Wairimu Wamai, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.
Out of the award, more than $5 billion is for compensatory damages and $3.1 billion for pain and suffering. Other elements bring the total damages to around $8.6 billion.
Victims of the bombings and their families sued the governments of Iran and Sudan under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA") for their roles in funding and supporting the attacks. A November 2011 ruling issued by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates found the defendants complicit in the 1998 embassy bombings. The opinion covered six separate cases that were consolidated for purposes of expediency.
"The government of Iran aided, abetted and conspired with Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks against the United States by utilizing the sophisticated delivery mechanism of powerful suicide truck bombs. Hezbollah, a terrorist organization based principally in Lebanon, had utilized this type of bomb in the devastating 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Prior to their meetings with Iranian officials and agents, Bin Laden and al Qaeda did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam," Judge Bates wrote.
The ruling also revealed the role of the Sudanese government in the attacks: "Sudan harbored and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network. Bin Laden and al Qaeda received the support and protection of the Sudanese intelligence and military from foreign intelligence services and rival militants."
The damages cover hundreds of bombing victims and their families. Bates said elements of the embassy bombing attacks resembled the 1982 Hizballah bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 service members. In that case, $4 billion in compensatory damages and $5 billion in punitive damages were awarded. He structured the damages in these cases accordingly.
"Scores were murdered, hundreds of families were torn asunder, and thousands of lives were irreparably damaged," Bates wrote Friday in awarding punitive damages. "The need for deterrence here is tremendous."