The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan reopened a lawsuit against French bank BNP Paribas SA which was filed by 21 alleged victims of a genocidal regime in Sudan, who are now living in the U.S. as refugees, Reuters reported May 22.
The 21 refugees originally filed the suit in 2016 over BNP Paribas' role as the primary bank of the aforementioned regime between 1997 and 2007. The plaintiffs claimed the bank facilitated atrocities by the regime such as murder, mass rape, torture and deliberate HIV infection against its populace, the report said.
However, the case was dismissed in March 2018 by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan under the reasoning that she could not examine the validity of Sudan's official actions because of restrictions stemming from the act of state doctrine. This is a principle in English and U.S. law stating that every sovereign state must respect the autonomy and independence of other sovereign states and thus one country's courts can not sit in judgment of another government's actions, the report said.
Circuit Judge Barrington Parker said the lower court judge had been erroneous in dismissing the case since "universal international consensus" against genocide ensured it cannot be considered an official act of state and that the claims against BNP Paribas were subject to U.S. judicial review, according to the newswire.
"Considering the lack of evidence introduced by BNPP that genocide is the official policy of Sudan, and the countervailing evidence that genocide blatantly violates Sudan's own laws, we conclude that there is simply no 'official act' that a court would be required to 'declare invalid' in order to adjudicate plaintiffs' claims," Parker wrote.
This is not the first time the French banking giant has come under fire over aiding regimes under sanctions. In 2014, BNP Paribas pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions by transferring billions of dollars for entities based in Sudan, Iran and Cuba. The bank paid $8.97 billion in penalties over the violations.