The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday reversed the district court’s dismissal of a class action lawsuit against French bank BNP Paribas over aiding atrocities in Sudan.
The lawsuit was brought in 2016 by 21 refugees from Sudan’s ethnic-cleansing campaign alleging that the bank conspired with and aided and abetted the Sudanese regime. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that BNP processed thousands of illegal transactions through its New York offices, which financed weapons purchases and funded a militia in a “well-documented genocidal campaign.”
The reversal comes nearly five years after BNP pleaded guilty to committing large-scale violations of sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran, which resulted in a record $8.97 billion fine.
Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote the opinion, which held that the claim is indeed subject to judicial review because the lower court “misapplied the act of state doctrine and erroneously determined that the Adult Plaintiffs’ claims were untimely.”
In the 2018 dismissal, Judge Alison Nathan said the act of state doctrine barred her from examining the validity of Sudan’s official actions. However, the reversal notes that BNP did not introduce evidence suggesting “that genocide is the 13 official policy of Sudan.” Further, the Second Circuit held that “even for purposes of act-of-state deference,” the court cannot deem “genocide, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing” as valid state actions because such acts “violate jus cogens norms.”
The case will be remanded to the district court for further proceedings.