Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley: Sudan Must Answer to Victims for Supporting Terrorism before Sanctions are Lifted

Nov 01, 2019
WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley urged the administration to put victims of international terrorism first during sanctions negotiations by securing a commitment from Sudan to compensate for its prior support of terrorism that has killed and injured Americans serving abroad.
 
In a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Grassley renews his call upon the administration, as a condition of lifting any terrorism-related sanctions, to accept nothing less than a clear commitment from the government of Sudan to resolve or settle the terrorism judgments entered against it in U.S. courts and meet its obligations to compensate American victims.
 
“It is critical that, under your leadership, the State Department keep the pressure on Sudan,” Grassley wrote. “To be clear: Sudan should not be permitted to shed its terrorism sanctions and benefit from participating in the global economy without first fully compensating those harmed by its previous support of terrorism.”
 
In the years leading up to Al-Qaeda’s 1998 terrorist bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Sudan provided material support and safe harbor to Al-Qaeda and its leadership.  Victims have since filed lawsuits in U.S. courts against Sudan under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and won compensation, with courts finding Sudan legally responsible for supporting those terrorist attacks. Grassley’s letter follows up on a letter he and former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017.
 
Full text of Grassley’s letter follows.
 
October 30, 2019
 
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
 
The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
 
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
 
I write to express my appreciation for your recently demonstrated commitment to securing justice for victims of international terrorism[1] and urge you to stand firm in that commitment as the United States considers lifting terrorism-related sanctions on the Republic of Sudan.
 
In September 2017, your predecessor received a bicameral letter urging the administration to refrain from lifting sanctions “unless and until Sudan commits to resolve or settle judgments rendered against it in United States courts for materially supporting international terrorism.”[2] Since that time, the State Department has gone on the record welcoming Sudan’s “commitment to making progress in key areas,” including “taking steps to address certain outstanding terrorism-related claims,” a key tenet of the framework for sanctions negotiations.[3]
 
Although negotiations were suspended earlier this year when a new government took control in Sudan, recent reports indicate that the State Department is once again engaging in discussions and “testing” the commitment of the new transitional government to make amends for Sudan’s previous harboring of terrorists and other human rights violations.[4] It is critical that, under your leadership, the State Department keep the pressure on Sudan.
 
To be clear: Sudan should not be permitted to shed its terrorism sanctions and benefit from participating in the global economy without first fully compensating those harmed by its previous support of terrorism.    
 
The administration should consult recent history as it considers whether to lift sanctions. When Libya sought to remove itself from similar U.S. sanctions, it renounced terrorism, accepted responsibility for its prior support of attacks that killed or harmed Americans, and provided substantial funds to compensate victims and their families. The administration should similarly secure a clear commitment from Sudan that it will resolve or settle cases in good faith and fully compensate victims who have final judgments in U.S. courts. Anything less would undermine our nation’s counterterrorism laws and let Sudan off the hook for its prior support of international terrorism. 
 
I would also note that securing a commitment from Sudan to compensate victims would benefit victims of other state sponsored terrorist attacks. In December 2015, Congress established the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund to aid those who have been unable to satisfy their judgments against a state sponsor of terror. The Fund has since provided over $2 billion to victims. Its resources, however, are finite and paid out to eligible claimants on a pro rata basis. If Sudan satisfies the judgments rendered against it in U.S. courts, an entire class of claims from the Fund will be removed, thereby making more resources available for victims who have been injured or killed by terrorist attacks supported by other designated state sponsors, such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria.            
 
As the United States continues sanctions-related negotiations with Sudan, the administration should put the interests of all victims first by securing a clear commitment from Sudan to recognize and satisfy terrorism judgments entered against it in our nation’s courts. 
Sincerely,
 
Charles E. Grassley
 
-30-
 

[1] Letter from Secretary Pompeo to Senator Grassley (describing draft legislation as “advanc[ing] two critical U.S. interests by seeking to enable U.S. victims of terrorism to vindicate their rights in U.S. courts while simultaneously protecting our own national security interests….”) (June 19, 2019).
[2] Letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte to Secretary Tillerson (Sept. 27, 2017) available at https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2017-09-27%20CEG,%20Goodlatte%20to%20Tillerson(Sudan%20Sanctions).pdf.
[3] Heather Nauert, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and State Department Spokesperson, “Sudan Commits to Strengthening Cooperation and Meaningful Reforms” (Nov. 7, 2018) available at https://www.state.gov/sudan-commits-to-strengthening-cooperation-and-meaningful-reforms/.
[4] Lesley Wroughton, “U.S. to Keep Up Pressure On Sudan as it Discusses Lifting Sanctions: Official,” Reuters (Aug. 26, 2019) available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-politics-usa/us-to-keep-up-pressure-on-sudan-as-it-discusses-lifting-sanctions-official-idUSKCN1VG2D0.