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Owens v. BNP Paribas, S.A.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

November 14, 2017, Argued; July 27, 2018, Decided

No. 17-7037

Opinion

 [*268]  Griffith, Circuit Judge: In 1998, al Qaeda detonated truck bombs outside the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing over two hundred people and injuring several thousand more. Victims of these attacks sued the French bank BNP  [*269]  Paribas for damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), alleging the bank provided financial assistance to Sudan, which in turn funded and otherwise supported al Qaeda's attack. Because the victims fail to plausibly allege BNP Paribas [**2]  caused their injuries, and because the ATA does not permit recovery for claims premised on aiding and abetting liability, the district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim. We affirm.

On August 7, 1998, truck bombs exploded outside the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. At least twelve of the more than two hundred deaths and many of the 4,000 injured individuals were U.S. nationals. See Owens v. Republic of Sudan, 412 F. Supp. 2d 99, 102 (D.D.C. 2006). Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda claimed responsibility. The embassy bombings served as a prelude to subsequent al Qaeda attacks against the United States, culminating in the atrocities of September 11, 2001.

But al Qaeda didn't act alone. The Republic of Sudan and the Islamic Republic of Iran helped facilitate the embassy bombings in several ways. For its part, Sudan provided safe harbor for al Qaeda's operational and logistical supply network, as well as critical financial, military, and intelligence services. See Owens v. Republic of Sudan, 826 F. Supp. 2d 128, 139-46 (D.D.C. 2011). In the early 1990s, Sudan invited al Qaeda to relocate from Afghanistan and promised the government's support. Am. Compl. ¶ 104. Al Qaeda accepted the invitation and moved its operations to Sudan, purchasing real estate and agreeing to supply [**3]  the Sudanese government with communications equipment, weapons, and labor for making chemical weapons. Id. In return, the Sudanese government provided al Qaeda with airplanes to bring their missiles from Afghanistan to Sudan, security, intelligence-gathering services, travel documents, economic aid, and uranium. Id.

In response to Sudan's growing ties to terrorist organizations, the U.S. Secretary of State designated the country as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993. Id. ¶¶ 47, 61. The Secretary noted that the Sudanese government harbored international terrorists, maintained close ties to Iran, and provided meeting locations, transit points, and safe havens for various radical extremist groups. Id. ¶ 61. The United States thereafter placed sanctions on Sudan, restricting U.S. foreign assistance to its government, banning defense exports and sales, and imposing various financial constraints. Id. ¶ 62.

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897 F.3d 266 *; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 20881 **

JAMES OWENS, ET AL., APPELLANTS v. BNP PARIBAS, S.A., ET AL., APPELLEES

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:15-cv-01945).

Owens v. BNP Paribas, S.A., 235 F. Supp. 3d 85, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11109 (D.D.C., Jan. 27, 2017)

CORE TERMS

aiding and abetting, bombings, banks, embassy, terrorist, terrorism, statement of facts, cause of action, transactions, sanctions, funds, international terrorism, legislative history, proximate, sponsor, dollar, district court, processed, injuries, factual allegations, reasonable inference, motion to dismiss, allegations, transferred, attacks, courts, plaintiff's claim, guilty plea, causation, currency

International Law, Individuals & Sovereign States, Human Rights, Terrorism, Civil Procedure, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Exclusive Jurisdiction, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Torts, Multiple Defendants, Concerted Action, Civil Aiding & Abetting, Criminal Law & Procedure, Accessories, Aiding & Abetting, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation