The US Supreme Court ruled May 18 in Opati v. Republic of Sudan that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) permits a punitive damages award against Sudan for the role it played in 1998 al-Qaeda bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Following the bombings, victims and family members sued Sudan under the "state-sponsored terrorism exception" to the FSIA, but the act at the time included no provision for punitive damages in suits filed under the "exception." Congress amended the act in 2008 to allow punitive damages in such cases. A district court in 2017 awarded a $6 billion judgment against Sudan, but the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the amendment did not allow plaintiffs to seek damages for attacks that occurred before its enactment. The Supreme Court disagreed, and held that Congress intended the amendment to apply retroactively.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., began hearing oral arguments Jan. 29 in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Donald Trump, a case challenging the administration's travel bans. The plaintiffs, led by IRAP, argue that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, their challenge is not barred. They contend that the high court simply addressed the preliminary injunction, and not the merits of the overall travel ban. The case challenges the proclamation Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, Executive Order 13780. The plaintiffs are asserting that the proclamation is unconstitutional, while the Trump administration argues that Trump v. Hawaii settled the constitutionality of the proclamation.
Central Africa's rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. Bloomberg reported Aug. 23 that Weather Source satellite data recorded 6,902 fires in Angola over the past 48 hours, and 3,395 in the Democratic Republic of Congo compared to 2,127 in Brazil. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, "In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation." Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to "widespread agricultural burning," as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops.
Some 50,000 to 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution will start a new life and be on track for a new passport in 2018, but it will be the fewest number of refugees resettled globally any year since 2007, UN figures show. The drop is mainly due to President Donald Trump’s administration slashing the US quota. The United States took in 68% of the 770,000 refugees permanently resettled in the last 10 years, according to the UN—an average of about 51,000 per year. But this calendar year, fewer than 10,000 had made the journey to the United States by the end of July. Developing regions host 85% of the world’s refugees, according to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR.
Women from various African countries gathered at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to demand land rights Oct. 15, during observations of International Day of Rural Women. The protest, dubbed the "Women to Kilimanjaro Initiative," is an attempt to bring attention to denial of land rights and other unequal treatment women face across various economic sectors. [Organizers noted that women are particularly vulnerable to land-grabbing in countries where rural families often lack legal title to their lands, and are less likely to receive just compensation for lost lands. A small delegation of women even climbed the peak itself—an elevation of nearly 6,000 meters above sea level—in a symbolic statement of their determination.] Under the social media campaign #Women2Kilimanjaro, the women called on governments to enforce laws and policies that promote land rights and gender justice. The women also circulated a petition that will be delivered to regional leaders in the coming days.
A former aide of Osama bin Laden was found guilty on Feb. 26 of plotting the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224. Extradited from the UK in 2012, Saudi national Khalid al-Fawwaz was convicted on four counts of conspiracy by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after three days of jury deliberations, and faces a possible life sentence. US Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Fawwaz "played a critical role for al-Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America." He described al-Fawwaz as one of bin Laden's "original and most trusted lieutenants" who was leader of an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and later acted as bin Laden's spokesperson in London. Al-Fawwaz was arrested in the UK in 1998, the same year as the bombings. His trial lasted a month under heavy security in Manhattan. Al-Fawwaz did not testify.
Gunmen attacked a mosque in a village in Dogo Dawa village in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state Oct. 14, killing 22 worshippers as they were leaving after prayers. Authorities called it an attack by a criminal band against followers of a vigilante group rather than sectarian violence. But that same day saw multiple attacks in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, including an armed assault on a church that killed a married couple and their child in the city Gwange area. In a separate incident, the traditional chief in Gwange, Mala Kaka, was gunned down in his home. Kaka was close to Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, a local cleric who was the intended target of a suicide blast in July. The suicide attack, attributed to Boko Haram, killed five but left Kanemi unharmed. (AFP, Oct. 15; Reuters, Oct. 14)