Sudan says deal with US blocks further compensation claims

Sudan says it has signed an agreement with the U.S. that could effectively stop any future compensation claims being filed against the African country in U.S. courts, following Washington's decision to remove the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The deal restores in U.S. courts what is known as sovereign immunity to the Sudanese government, and comes after a year of negotiations between the Trump administration and Sudan's new leadership, the Sudanese Justice Ministry said.

A transitional government led by a mix of military and civilian figures currently rules Sudan, after the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 led to the country seeking better ties with the U.S.

FILE - Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan speaks during a military-backed rally in Omdurman district, west of Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, June 29, 2019. Sudan’s leader said Monday, Oct. 26, 2020 that the decision to normalize ties with Israel was an incentive for President Donald Trump’s administration to end Sudan’s international pariah status. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, told state television that without the deal Sudan would have had to wait until deep into next year to be removed from the U.S.'s list of state sponsors of terrorism. (AP PhotoHussein Malla, file)

Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said that the agreement will allow Sudan “to resolve historical liabilities, restore normal relations with the United States, and move forward toward democracy and better economic times.”

The ministry said the deal, signed at the U.S. State Department Friday, was meant to settle all lawsuits against Sudan in American courts, including those related to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The deal would enter into force after U.S. Congress passes legislation needed to implement the agreement.

Sudan’s transitional government has agreed to pay $335 million in compensation for victims of the attacks that were carried out by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network while the militant leader was living in Sudan. The ministry said the money would be held at an escrow account till the U.S. finalize the restoration of Sudan’s sovereign immunity.

“The signing .. marks a critically important step toward achieving justice for the tragedy our families,” said Edith L. Bartley, spokeswoman for the families of the Americans killed in the Kenya attack.

Bartley urged U.S. Congress to “immediately” pass legislation needed to implement the settlement and release the money.

The U.S. designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when al-Bashir ruled Sudan and his government briefly hosted bin Laden and other wanted militants. Sudan was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

De-listing Sudan from the blacklist was part of the U.S. administration's efforts to have Sudan normalize its ties with Israel. Sudan has become the third Arab country — after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to normalize ties with the Jewish state in the run-up to Election Day on Nov. 3.

Sudanese transitional authorities have promised by hold elections by 2022.