A federal judge has ordered Sudan to pay nearly $8 million to the families of 17 sailors killed in the 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole. The families had sought $105 million, but because of a very bad law, U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar ordered Sudan to pay only $7.96 million. Judge Doumar applied the Death on the High Seas Act, which permits compensation for economic losses, but not for pain and suffering. In his ruling, Judge Doumar wrote:
It is depressing to realize that a country organized on a religious basis with religious rule of law could and would execute its power for purposes which most countries would find intolerable and loathsome. It is a further tragedy that the laws of the United States, in this instance, provide no remedy for the psychological and emotional losses suffered by the survivors.
The families accused Sudan’s government of providing support, including money and training, that allowed Al-Qaeda to attack the Cole while it was in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000. In March, Judge Doumar found the African country liable for the attack on the now-repaired Navy destroyer. His latest ruling reaffirmed those findings.
Sudan had sought unsuccessfully to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that too much time had passed between the bombing and the filing of the lawsuit in 2004. Lawyers representing the Sudanese government didn’t offer opening statements or closing arguments. In fact, they didn’t ever question any witnesses. It would now be up to the lawyers for the families to collect the damages awarded from Sudan’s assets that have been frozen in the United States. While the result is good, Judge Doumar’s hands were tied by the existing law that limited the amount of damages that he could award for the 17 deaths. That is most unfortunate for the families of the victims.
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