In 1993, having determined that the Government of Sudan was harboring and supporting terrorists, including the leader of the Al Qa’ida terrorist organization Osama bin Laden, the United States designated Sudan a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
Such a listing has serious consequences: the country in question becomes an international pariah. Investors avoid a designated country, while other countries are wary of dealing with it. The United States is barred from providing many kinds of direct assistance, imposes a variety of export controls, and works to oppose lending to such a country from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism limits a country’s ability to participate in the global economic system.
The designation also cost Sudan its sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine that makes governments immune to civil suits or criminal prosecution. As a result, victims of al-Qa’ida attacks and their families sued the government of Sudan for restitution in U.S. courts. In separate cases, U.S. courts ruled that Sudan owed reparations to the families of the victims of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya and to the families of 17 U.S. sailors who died as the result of a bomb attack in Yemen on the U.S. naval destroyer Cole.
In August 2019, the people of Sudan overthrew its long-time dictator and the new, provisional government declared that its top priority was to rid Sudan of its pariah status and to join the community of nations once again. To that end, the government of Sudan agreed to settle the judgements against it by making available 335 million, to be distributed among the plaintiffs. Following further review of Sudan’s progress, on December 14, the United States removed Sudan from its State Sponsor of Terrorism list. On December 28 the Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted, which included language that provided a path towards the restoration of most of Sudan’s sovereign immunities.
This step represents “a fundamental change in Sudan’s relationship with not only the United States but also the entire international community. It removes a major impediment to Sudan’s full reintegration into the global economy by reducing the risk of attachment of Sudan’s assets, opening the possibility for substantially increased trade and investment,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a written statement.
“We commend the Sudanese people for their continued insistence on freedom, peace, and justice.”