US court dismisses 1998 Sudan missile strike suit

An appeals court on Tuesday 8 June upheld (click here to read the decision) the dismissal of a $50 million lawsuit against the United States over then-President Bill Clinton’s 1998 decision to order a missile attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant.

The appeals court dismissed the case ruling that it involved a political question covered by a legal doctrine, which means the suit cannot be reviewed by the judicial branch.

“If the political question doctrine means anything in the arena of national security and foreign relations, it means the courts cannot assess the merits of the president’s decision to launch an attack on a foreign target,” Judge Thomas Griffith wrote in the opinion. “Under the political question doctrine, the foreign target of a military strike cannot challenge in court the wisdom of retaliatory military action taken by the United States,” he concluded.

Background:

Clinton ordered the attack on the factory and a training camp in Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that had been carried out days earlier by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.

Clinton said the El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries plant in North Khartoum was believed to be associated with bin Laden’s network and to be involved in the production of materials for chemicals weapons. The plant’s owners denied it was a chemical weapons facility or in any way connected to bin Laden or his network. They said the destroyed plant had been Sudan’s largest manufacturer of medicinal products.

The owners sued the U.S. government in federal court in Washington for unjustifiably destroying the plant, for failing to compensate them for the facility’s destruction and for defaming them by saying the plant had ties to bin Laden.

(HT Georgetown SLB)

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