MANHATTAN (CN) – Four years after its aid of U.S.-sanctioned countries like the Sudan resulted in an $8.9 billion fine, BNP Paribas ducked a lawsuit Friday by refugees of the Sudan’s ethnic-cleansing campaign.
Entesar Osman Kashef and the other 15 refugees who took the French bank to court in 2016 had sought to represent a class of hundreds.
Kashef claimed that BNP helped finance the Janjaweed militia that murdered her entire family, burned her house and stole all of her property, but U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan found Friday that such allegations would require the court to sit in judgment of a foreign government’s actions, a violation of act-of-state doctrine.
“In order for the court to impose liability on the defendants for conspiring with or aiding and abetting the government of Sudan in circumventing U.S. sanctions and carrying out the torts alleged, the court must necessarily conclude that the government of Sudan’s actions amounted to tortious conduct including battery, assault, false arrest and imprisonment, wrongful taking, and wrongful death,” Nathan wrote.
“As a result, it is impossible for this court to rule on plaintiffs’ secondary liability claims without improperly questioning the validity of the government of Sudan’s acts taken within its own jurisdiction,” the 20-page opinion continues.
Although the refugees argued that the act-of-state doctrine is not applicable to genocide and human-rights abuses, Judge Nathan noted that their lawsuit does not bring claims under international law.
“Instead, it brings only common law claims under the laws of New York,” the judge wrote.
“As a result, the plaintiffs do not ask the court to determine whether the government of Sudan violated international law; they only ask the court to find that the government of Sudan’s actions amounted to battery, assault, wrongful takings, and other common law claims,” she continued. “This is what the act of state doctrine prohibits the court from doing.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys at the Los Angeles-based firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Neither did Cleary Gottlieb attorney Lawrence Friedman, representing BNP Paribas.