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French banking giant, BNP Paribas, to face lawsuit over Sudan genocide

French bank BNP Paribas was ordered by a US Judge to face a lawsuit accusing the French bank of aiding the Sudanese government commit genocide between 1997 and 2011 by providing banking services that violated American sanctions.

According to the East African, US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Thursday in Manhattan found too many correlating facts showing a relationship between BNP Paribas financing and human right abuses by the Sudanese government.

However, the judge called it premature to decide whether it was reasonable to hold the bank responsible for the series of atrocities which include murder, mass rape and torture or whether they could have foreseen the atrocities happening.

The proposed class action against the French bank was brought by US residents who had fled non-Arab indigenous black African communities in South Sudan, Darfur, and the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan. They are seeking unspecified damages from the French bank.

Earlier in 2014, the French bank agreed to plead guilty and pay a heavy fine of $8.97 billion to settle US charges for transferring billions of dollars to Sudanese, Cuban and Iranian entities who were under economic sanctions at the moment.

Many banks in the past have been accused of aiding human right abuses but the case of BNP Paribas is the first time a global bank was pleading guilty to large scale violations of US economic sanctions the department of justice said.

The US Judge said the bank’s admission that its employees recognized its role in exposing Sudanese entities to US banking system under a sanction meant it cannot argue differently now.

The current decision by the US Judge on Thursday came in a lawsuit originally filed in 2016.

A different judge dismissed the case in 2018, but a federal appeal court revived in 2019.

What to Know 

  • BNP Paribas is the biggest bank in France and Europe with footprint in over 63 countries and 183,000 employees. It is also the largest bank in the European Union as measured by Balance sheet assets.
  • BNP Paribas has run banking operations in South Africa, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Namibia, as well as Morocco, Senegal and Botswana.
  • The US government recognized the Sudanese conflict as a genocide in 2004.

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