U.S. Court Awards Damages to Victims of August 7, 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings

— Domani Spero
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Last week, we posted the State Department’s Albright archive of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.  Yes, the interesting thing about that is how 16 years later, the names, the response, the briefings and the narrative are ever so familiar.

The twin-embassy bombings cost the lives of over 220 persons and wounded more than 4,000 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07

U.S. Embassy Nairobi employees joined Charge d’Affaires Isiah Parnell for a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the victims of the 1998 Embassy bombing in Nairobi. August 7, 2014

In December 2011, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled (PDF via Legal Times) that the governments of Sudan and Iran will be liable for monetary damages to victims of suicide bombings at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1998. According to Judge Bates’ 2011 order (PDF via Legal Times) , a special master was appointed to figure how much in damages the plaintiffs will receive.  The Court previously ruled that the foreign-national U.S.-government-employee victims have a federal cause of action, while their foreign-national family members have a cause of action under D.C. law.

On July 25, 2014, the Court entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. The total award is reportedly $8 billion.

Judge John Bates in his ruling  (see Wamai, et al.,v. Republic of Sudan, et.al. (pdf) (Civil Action No. 08-1349 (JDB) writes that the 1998 embassy bombings shattered the lives of all plaintiffs.

[T]heir personal stories reveals that, even more than fifteen years later, they each still feel the horrific effects of that awful day. Damages awards cannot fully compensate people whose lives have been torn apart; instead, they offer only a helping hand. But that is the very least that these plaintiffs are owed. Hence, it is what this Court will facilitate.

 

 

Below are some of the embassy employees and their injuries cited in court documents:

  • Many plaintiffs suffered little physical injury—or none at all—but have claims based on severe emotional injuries because they were at the scene during the bombings or because they were involved in the extensive recovery efforts immediately thereafter. Those plaintiffs will be awarded $1.5 million. See id. Typical of this category is Edward Mwae Muthama, who was working at the offsite warehouse for the United States Embassy in Kenya when the bombings occurred. Report of Special Master John Aldock Concerning Edward Muthama [ECF No. 93] at 4. Shortly after the attack, Muthama headed to the blast site and spent days assisting with the gruesome recovery efforts; to this day he suffers from emotional distress resulting from his time administering aid to survivors and handling the dead bodies (and body parts) of his murdered colleagues. Id.
  • Other plaintiffs suffered minor injuries (such as lacerations and contusions caused by shrapnel), accompanied by severe emotional injuries. They will be awarded $2 million. Typical is Emily Minayo, who was on the first floor of the United States Embassy in Nairobi at the time of the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Emily Minayo [ECF No. 162] at 4. She was thrown to the floor by the force of the blast, but she was lucky enough to escape with only lacerations that were later sewn up during a brief hospital stay. Id. She continues, however, to suffer from severe emotional damage resulting from her experience. Id.
  • To those who suffered more serious physical injuries, such as broken bones, head trauma, some hearing or vision impairment, or impotence, the Court will award $2.5 million. Typical is Francis Maina Ndibui, who was in the United States Embassy in Nairobi during the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Francis Maina Ndibui [ECF No. 152] at 4. Ndibui became temporarily trapped under debris that fell from the ceiling, and he suffered minor lacerations similar to Minayo’s. Id. Also as a result of the bombing, he continues to suffer from partial vision impairment, which has persisted even through reparative surgery. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id.
  • Plaintiffs with even more serious injuries—including spinal injuries not resulting in paralysis, more serious shrapnel injuries, head trauma, or serious hearing impairment—will be awarded $3 million. Typical is Victor Mpoto, who was at the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam on the day of the bombing. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Victor Mpoto [ECF No. 136] at 3. The blast knocked him to the ground and covered him in debris, causing minor physical injuries. Id. Because he was only about fifteen meters away from the blast, he suffered severe hearing loss in both ears that continues to this day and for which he continues to receive treatment. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id. at 4.
  • Those who suffered from injuries similar to those plaintiffs who are generally awarded the “baseline” award of $5 million (involving some mix of serious hearing or vision impairment, many broken bones, severe shrapnel wounds or burns, lengthy hospital stays, serious spinal or head trauma, and permanent injuries) will also be awarded that baseline. See Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 84. Typical is Pauline Abdallah, who was injured in the bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Stephen Saltzburg Concerning Pauline Abdallah [ECF No. 117] at 3. She was knocked unconscious by the blast, and later spent about a month in the hospital. Id. She suffered severe shrapnel wounds requiring skin grafts, third-degree burns, and two of her fingers were amputated. Id. Shrapnel still erupts from her skin. Id. She also suffered severe hearing loss. Id. Like other plaintiffs who were injured in the bombing, she suffers from severe emotional damage. Id. at 3-4.
  • And for a few plaintiffs, who suffered even more grievous wounds such as lost eyes, extreme burns, severe skull fractures, brain damage, ruptured lungs, or endured months of recovery in hospitals, upward departures to $7.5 million are in order. Livingstone Busera Madahana was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Kenneth Adams Concerning Livingstone Busera Madahana [ECF No. 175] at 4. Shrapnel from the blast completely destroyed his right eye and permanently damaged his left. Id. He suffered a skull fracture and spent months in a coma; his head trauma caused problems with his memory and cognition. Id. “He endured multiple surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, speech and cognitive therapy, and psychotherapy for depression.” Id.
  • Gideon Maritim was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Gideon Maritim [ECF No. 222] at 3. The second explosion knocked him unconscious for several hours. Id. at 4 The blast ruptured his eardrums, knocked out several teeth, and embedded metal fragments into his eyes. Id. He also suffered deep shrapnel wounds to his legs and stomach, and his lungs were ruptured. Id. His hearing is permanently impaired, as is his lung function. Id. at 5. And he suffers from chronic back and shoulder pain. Id.
  • Charles Mwaka Mulwa was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Charles Mwaka Mulwa [ECF No. 132] at 3. The bomb blast permanently disfigured his skull, ruptured both his eardrums, and embedded glass in his eyes. Id. He continues to suffer from nearly total hearing loss, and his eyesight is permanently diminished. Id. And he suffered from other shrapnel injuries to his head, arms, and legs. Id.
  • Tobias Oyanda Otieno was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Tobias Oyanda Otieno [ECF No. 181] at 4. The blast caused permanent blindness in his left eye, and substantial blindness in his right. Id. He suffered severe shrapnel injuries all over his body, including a particularly severe injury to his hand, which resulted in permanent impairment. Id. His lower back was also permanently damaged, causing continuous pain to this day. Id. He spent nearly a year recovering in hospitals. Id.
  • Moses Kinyua was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Deborah Greenspan Concerning Moses Kinyua [ECF No. 202] at 4. The blast knocked him into a coma for three weeks. Id. His skull was crushed, his jaw was fractured in four places, and he lost his left eye. Id. The head trauma resulted in brain damage. Id. In addition, he suffered from a ruptured eardrum, a detached retina in his right eye, a dislocated shoulder, broken fingers, and serious shrapnel injuries. Id. He was ultimately hospitalized for over six months. Id.
  • Joash Okindo was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Joash Okindo [ECF No. 163] at 4. He spent about eight months in hospitals, and was in a coma for the first month because he suffered a skull fracture. Id. at 4-5. He suffered from severe shrapnel injuries to his head, back, legs, and hands, and the blast fractured bones in both of his legs. Id. at 4.
  • Each of these plaintiffs also suffered severe emotional injuries. The injuries suffered by these plaintiffs are comparable to those suffered by plaintiffs who were awarded $7–$8 million in Peterson II. See 515 F. Supp. 2d at 55-57 (e.g., Michael Toma, who suffered “various cuts from shrapnel, internal bleeding in his urinary system, a deflated left lung, and a permanently damaged right ear drum”). Hence, the Court will award each of these plaintiffs $7.5 million for pain and suffering. The Court adopts the recommendations by special masters of awards consistent with the adjusted guidelines described above, and will adjust inconsistent awards accordingly.

An attorney for hundreds of the East African victims cited the “need to have patience and determination” in collecting approximately $8 billion from Iran and Sudan, acknowledging it is unlikely that the  two governments would make voluntarily payments for the award ordered by the U.S. court. The lawyers are reportedly looking at Iranian and Sudanese assets seized in the United States or other countries as a source for the court-ordered payments.

 

Related documents ( all pdfs):

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1380 ONSONGO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 233 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1361 AMDUSO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 255 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1349 WAMAI et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 246 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

 

 

 

 

 

 

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US Embassy Dhaka: Jamaat-e-Islami Attacks Embassy Vehicle, Offers Apology

The US Embassy in Dhaka issued an emergency message to American citizens in Bangladesh with a reminder to remain vigilant following an attack of one of its official vehicles where an embassy driver was injured.

12/4/2012

The Embassy confirms that a U.S. Embassy vehicle was attacked in Dhaka outside of the diplomatic enclave early this morning.  Our driver sustained minor injuries and has received medical treatment.  The vehicle also sustained significant damage and is now at the Embassy annex.  The Dhaka Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident.  All members of the American community should remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.

We remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.  Be alert and aware at all times – in addition to possible violence, large crowds attract pick-pocketing. All individuals are reminded to carry their mobile phones with them at all times. American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Local reports says that the Jamaat-e-Islami took responsibility for the attack by its supporters and offered apology:

Police have filed a case under the Speedy Trial Act accusing five people of vandalism and arson attempt, Khilkhet Police Station Officer-in-Charge Shamim Hossain said.

Habildar Siddiqul Islam, the plaintiff, also accused 10-15 unidentified others.

“On 4th December, at around 8.45 AM, a US Embassy motor pool vehicle was attacked by a crowd causing minor injuries to the driver and damage to the vehicle,” read the press statement posted on the official website of the party whose top leadership is currently behind bars on charge of committing crimes against humanity.

“After carrying out a preliminary inquiry into the matter, we accept responsibility for this unfortunate incident, which is the first of its kind. We condemn it. We offer our apologies to the US Embassy and to the victims and will provide compensation,” the statement continued.

The website attributed the statement to their Acting Secretary General Md Shafiqur Rahman.

In a separate Daily Star report, Kelly McCarthy, press and information officer of the embassy, was quoted as saying that the vehicle was attacked in the vicinity of Pragati Sarani and Airport Road, injuring the driver and several policemen in the vehicle:

McCarthy said the injured driver was receiving treatment for his injuries.

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack on our diplomatic vehicle in Dhaka today,” she said, adding, “The United States places a high priority on the safety and security of diplomatic personnel and any attack on diplomatic property or personnel is an affront to the entire international community.”

She said the US embassy appreciated the assistance and support of the government and Dhaka Metropolitan Police to protect American citizens and US embassy property.

“We call upon the perpetrators to be held accountable for this unprovoked attack on a diplomatic vehicle and its innocent occupants,” she said.

domani spero sig

USCG Peshawar: Robert Reed Assumes Charge as Consul General

The new Consul General for the USCG Peshawar arrived last month and has assumed charge.  This is one officer who did not just do one week of crash and bang at some Virginia farm.

Robert Reed joined the U.S. Department of State in 1985. His first assignment was in the Diplomatic Security Boston Field Office. He was then transferred to Secretary George Shultz’s protective Detail in 1987, where he served as a Supervisory Agent.

In 1989 he was assigned as an Assistant Regional Security Officer at American Embassy Bonn, Germany followed by a tour in Bamako, Mali, where he served as Regional Security Officer (RSO).  In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he served for three years as RSO followed by an additional year as the Haitian Presidential Security Advisor to then President Rene Preval.  After Haiti, Mr. Reed was assigned to Kingston, Jamaica as RSO.

From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Reed was the RSO in London, UK.  In 2006 Mr. Reed served in Iraq, as Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader for Karbala and Wasit Provinces.  Following a tour as RSO Moscow from 2007 to 2009, he returned to Iraq as the Senior Regional Security Officer, overseeing the U.S. State Department’s largest security program.  Prior to his current assignment as the Consul General in Peshawar, Mr. Reed served as the Senior Olympic Security Coordinator, managing the protection of Team USA for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Team USA came out of London without a security hitch. And he gets a promotion to one of the most dangerous assignments in the Foreign Service. But given what happened to USCG Peshawar yesterday, we are pleased that an experienced officer like Mr. Reed is at the helm of this post that has been under siege for the last several years.

Click on photo to view video greeting.

The 2012 Crime and Safety Report has this to say about Peshawar, Pakistan:

The U.S. Department of State rates Peshawar and surrounding areas as “high” for crime, but  the overall security environment in Peshawar is inextricably linked to the “critical” terrorist threat that touches all aspects of life for expatriates and locals alike in Northwest Pakistan.  Local authorities do not keep reliable crime statistics, and tracking incremental changes in the crime and safety situation is difficult.  However, following the Abbottabad raid in May 2011 and the November 2011 Mohmand cross-border incident, anti-American sentiment and continued extremist activity continue to render Peshawar one of the world’s most challenging security environments for westerners.   The overall number of terrorist acts in the “settled areas” of Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has fallen compared to prior year figures, but attacks continue  to occur, particularly against commercial targets and local government facilities.
[…]
In 2010, the U.S. Consulate weathered a direct assult.  In May 2011, a Consulate motorcade was attacked via Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) in the “University Town” neighborhood in Peshawar where the city’s relatively few western-affiliated offices and residences are located.

The September 3, 2012 car bomb attack on USCG Peshawar’s vehicle is just the latest in the persistent targeted attacks of the US presence in Peshawar. We were looking at the YouTube footage below of the mangled vehicle left from the bombing and we are still awestricken that the passengers got away with non-life threatening injuries.  See USCG Peshawar: Suicide Car Bomb Targets Consulate Car, Wounds Four Staff and More (Updated)

Via Al Jazeera:

The 2010 OIG inspection report called Peshawar the most dangerous Foreign Service post in the world, and the 2012 CFR did not dispute that characterization.  According to the May 2012 CFR, Peshawar is also seriously disadvantaged by the fact that it is viewed through the prism of Islamabad, rather than in its real context as “Afghanistan’s near abroad.”

“This optic understates the realities of both living and security conditions, which are more in line with those in Baghdad and Kabul. It also means that that compensation and benefits afforded to those in Peshawar are not in line with those living in comparable conditions in nearby Afghanistan.”

We wrote this piece last week before the latest attack occurred.  We have since learned that the two Americans and two Pakistanis wounded in the vehicle attack are all part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at USCG Peshawar.

Our thoughts are with them, and we hope for their speedy recovery.

Domani Spero

USCG Peshawar: Suicide Car Bomb Targets Consulate Car, Wounds Four Staff and More (Updated)

The AP is reporting that a suicide car bomb hit an armored SUV of the US Consulate General in Peshawar.  The attack reportedly killed two Pakistanis and wounded 19 other people, including two American personnel and two local staff of the consulate, as well as policemen who were protecting the Americans.

Updated @6:49 pm PST: Our source from the US Embassy in Islamabad says that the four were in the vehicle and were saved by accompanying local police who pulled them out after the attack – two Americans and two Pakistanis were slightly wounded.  One American is in a hospital in Islamabad but injuries are not life-threatening.  All four are part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at the Consulate General in Peshawar.

Excerpt via ctvnews.ca:

The armored SUV from the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was attacked as it traveled through a heavily guarded area of the city that hosts various international organizations, including the United Nations. It was unclear how the bomber penetrated the area and knew which vehicle to attack.

The car driven by the bomber was packed with 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of explosives, police said. The blast ripped apart the SUV – tossing its engine at least 6 meters (20 feet) away – and started a raging fire. Rescue workers and residents rushed to put out the fire and pull away the dead and wounded. All that was left of the SUV was a charred mass of twisted metal with a red diplomatic license plate.

Local news says that the  US consulate vehicle was at Abdara Road in University Town when targeted by the car bomb. The explosion reportedly left a crater in the road and destroyed a Jeep, damaging two others and demolishing the facing walls of four nearby houses.

Department of State Spokesperson Toria Nuland confims that four consulate staff were wounded in the attack:

“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack. Two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment. No U.S. Consulate personnel were killed, but we are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act.”

U.S. Embassy Islamabad also released the following statement by Charge d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland:

“I am grateful for the humane professionalism of the local Pakistani security forces who saved the lives of the two American Diplomats and two Pakistani local staff of the U.S. Consulate General Peshawar by pulling them to safety after their vehicle was attacked. In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together – Pakistanis and Americans alike – because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism.”

Peshawar, Afghanistan’s Near Abroad and a Recommendation of Possible Closure

In May 2012, State/OIG released its Compliance Follow-up Review of the US Mission in Pakistan. In that CFR, the inspectors points out that Peshawar remains the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and that it should be viewed not just as a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan but what it termed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad,” that is, a location similar to one of the provinces of Afghanistan without the NATO coalition forces.

By all calculations, Peshawar is the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service. The OIG team believes strongly that Peshawar should be viewed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad” rather than a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan. The conditions are analogous to those faced in one of the provinces of Afghanistan, without the benefit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization security. The consulate general is located in the former consul general’s residence on a Pakistani military cantonment. Security is so dire that employees are frequently required to sleep in their offices on the very confined consulate compound rather than travel to their residences in town. Despite this situation, the employees have an unflagging commitment to the mission and good morale bolstered by a sense of teamwork. Given the U.S. Government’s commitment to our continued presence in Peshawar, it is critical that more be done to assist these beleaguered personnel. They are under constant threat of terrorist attacks and harassed by local government agents, it is difficult to impossible for them to travel in the region and their present existence is analogous to a state of siege.

It appears that the OIG team also made a recommendation about the possible closure of the Consulate General in Peshawar but since it is in the security annex, presumably in the classified portion of the report, we don’t know the actual wording of the recommendation except for the following contained in the publicly released report:

Of the 27 informal recommendations in the security annex, all but 1 was closed by the CFR. Informal Recommendation 19 regarding the ability of Consulate General Peshawar to develop a way to drawdown in the event of a catastrophic incident needs to be reevaluated. It was not reissued as a formal recommendation; however, a new recommendation regarding the possible closure of Consulate General Peshawar was added.

We have a separate post drafted on the newly arrived CG in Peshawar from last week that we have not been able to post due to duties beyond this blog.  We hope to have that up in a bit.

Domani Spero