US top court blocks USS Cole sailors from $315m in compensation from Sudan

The USS Cole was attacked in Aden in 2,000 by Al-Qaeda militants. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 26 March 2019

US top court blocks USS Cole sailors from $315m in compensation from Sudan

  • Overturns lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets
  • Sudan denies that it provided any support to Al-Qaeda for the attack

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Tuesday prevented American sailors injured in the deadly 2000 Al-Qaeda bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole from collecting almost $315 million in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the attack.
In a 8-1 ruling, the justices overturned a lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets. The decision represented a major victory for Sudan, which denies that it provided any support to Al-Qaeda for the attack in Yemen.
Sudan was backed by President Donald Trump’s administration in the case.
In the ruling, the justices agreed with Sudan that the lawsuit had not been properly initiated in violation of US law because the claims were delivered in 2010 to the African country’s embassy in Washington rather than to its minister of foreign affairs in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
A lower court had levied damages by default because Sudan did not defend itself against allegations that it had given support to the extremist group.
The Oct. 12, 2000, attack killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the Navy guided-missile destroyer as it was refueling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, blasting a gaping hole in its hull. The vessel was repaired and later returned to full active duty.
Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued the government of Sudan in 2010 in Washington. At issue was whether mailing the lawsuit to Sudan’s embassy violated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a US law governing when foreign governments may be sued in American courts.
Writing for the court’s majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said that other countries’ foreign ministers must be reached where they normally work, “not a far flung outpost that the minister may at most occasionally visit.”
Alito expressed sympathy toward the sailors, writing that the ruling may seem like it is enforcing an empty formality.
“But there are circumstances in which the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements even when the equities of a particular case may seem to point in the opposite direction,” Alito said, adding that the case had sensitive diplomatic implications.
Alone in his dissent, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said that allowing litigants to send notices of lawsuits to embassies would comply with both US and international law.
The Trump administration had told the justices that a ruling against Sudan could impact how the US government is treated by foreign courts because the United States rejects judicial notices delivered to its embassies.
The sailors were highly critical of the administration’s position. “Particularly given this administration’s solicitude for veterans, its decision to side with a state sponsor of terrorism, against men and women who are seeking to recover for grievous injuries suffered in the service of our country, is inexplicable and distressing,” they said in a legal brief.
In 2012, a federal judge in Washington issued a default judgment of $314.7 million against Sudan. Individual plaintiffs were to receive between $4 million and $30 million each.
A separate judge in New York later ordered certain banks to turn over assets they had held for Sudan to partially satisfy the judgment. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld those orders in 2015.
A lawyer representing Sudan and a representative for Sudan’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment. An attorney for the sailors also could not be reached for comment.


Arabic-speaking Pakistanis meet online to bridge cultural gap

Updated 1 min 15 sec ago

Arabic-speaking Pakistanis meet online to bridge cultural gap

  • Apolitical platform to promote language, encourage people-to-people contact, organizers say
  • Constitutes a versatile mix of people from all walks of life

ISLAMABAD: For an hour and a half every fortnight, a group of Pakistanis log on to Zoom, a video-conferencing platform, to enter the digital space of the “Halqa-e-Aldardsha Al-Arabia” or the Arabic Speaking Circle.

The group of 20 are joined by 50 other linguaphiles from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan and even India — Pakistan’s nuclear-armed neighbor, and its archrival since the 1947 partition.

However, due to the apolitical nature of the group, the conversations are exclusive to and revolve around their experiences and mutual love of Arabic — a language that transcends their digital boundaries.

“Currently, there are 70 members in the group, 20 Pakistanis and 50 from other countries. The Pakistanis and two Indians aren’t native Arabic speakers, they’ve learnt it in the 1970s (as overseas workers), while members from Middle Eastern countries are native speakers, so it’s a good mix,” Dr. Inamul Haq Ghazi, founder of the group and chairman of the Arabic translation department at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, told Arab News on Tuesday.

The group held its first meeting on May 15 with an aim “to promote the language and exchange cultural experiences.” 

The idea, Dr. Ghazi said, originated from the fact that a lot of overseas workers and expatriates were well-versed in spoken Arabic but “didn’t have a platform to connect to a larger audience.”

“Our governments (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) have strong historical relationships, but we want to promote people-to-people contact through our platform. Millions of our nationals are employed in different fields in several Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” he said.

Prime among those is Ambassador Javed Hafeez, another founding member, who said that it began as an informal “group of friends” who were fluent in classical Arabic and “wanted to share their social and cultural experiences.”

“Being fluent in the language, I appear on numerous Arabic news channels as an analyst where I promote a positive image of Pakistan,” Hafeez, who has served in many Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia as an ambassador, told Arab News.

He added that Arabic was a rich language, before urging Pakistani youth to learn it “to expand their careers in the Middle East and know more about their social and cultural values.

A screen grab shows participants of the Arabic Speaking Circle meeting via Zoom held on May 15. (Supplied by Ambassador Javed Hafeez)

All are welcome, Dr. Ghazi added, since there are “no restrictions on nationality.”

“We are, in fact, including people of different nationalities in our group to make it a multinational platform,” he said.

The topics vary from talking about personal experiences to curated subjects.

“In our next meeting, we are planning to discuss ‘Arab travelers to the sub-continent, and how they have portrayed the area in their travelogues.’ We’ve already circulated this topic among the participants, and each member will come prepared to talk about it and ask different questions,” Hafeez said, adding that in the previous session he’d shared his experience of learning the language and how it helped him “climb the ladder of success as a diplomat.”

Next, the group has plans to set up a “Regional Arabic Center” in Pakistan, with the help of Saudi Arabia, to promote the Arabic language and cultural exchange between the two countries.

“The platform could also be used to dub classical dramas and films in both Urdu and Arabic to promote them in Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries. This is an apolitical platform, and its only purpose is to promote Arabic language and strengthen our relationship with Middle Eastern countries,” Dr. Ghazi said.