The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City on May 22 reversed a district court’s dismissal of a class action lawsuit against French bank BNP Paribas over aiding atrocities in Sudan. The lawsuit was brought in 2016 by 21 refugees from Sudan’s ethnic-cleansing campaigns Darfur and South Kordofan regions, alleging that the bank conspired with, and aided and abetted, the Sudanese regime. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that BNP processed thousands of illegal transactions through its New York offices, which financed weapons purchases and funded militias in a “well-documented genocidal campaign.” The reversal comes nearly five years after BNP pleaded guilty to committing large-scale violations of sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran, which resulted in a record $8.97 billion fine.
Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote the opinion, which held that the claim is indeed subject to judicial review because the lower court “misapplied” the act of state doctrine and “erroneously determined” that the plaintiffs’ claims were “untimely.”
In the 2018 dismissal, Judge Alison Nathan said the act of state doctrine barred her from examining the validity of Sudan’s official actions. However, the reversal notes that BNP did not introduce evidence suggesting “that genocide is the official policy of Sudan.” Further, the Second Circuit held that “even for purposes of act-of-state deference,” the court cannot deem “genocide, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing” as valid state actions because such acts violatejus cogens norms.
The case will be remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
From Jurist, May 24. Used with permission.
Photo: Radio Dabanga