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El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Co. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
607 F.3d 836 (2010)


On August 20, 1998, in response to the Osama bin Laden terrorist network’s bombing of the United States embassies in Africa, the United States launched missile attacks against a factory in Sudan believed to be connected with the bin Laden network and involved in the production of materials used for chemical weapons. El-Shifa (plaintiff), the owner of the plant (plaintiff), and Salah El Din Ahmed Mohammed Idris (Idris) (plaintiff), the owner of El-Shifa, contended that: (1) striking the plant was a mistake, (2) the plant was not a weapons facility, and (3) the plant was not in any way associated with terrorism or bin Laden’s network. The plaintiffs brought an action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia based on negligence and international law claims, after the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) denied their requests for compensation for the plant’s destruction and a withdrawal of the U.S. government’s (defendant) allegations that they were involved with terrorism. The district court ruled in favor of the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity, stating that the complaint probably presented a nonjusticiable political question. El-Shifa appealed based on law of nations and defamation claims, and a divided panel affirmed the district court, holding that the claims were barred by the political question doctrine. The panel’s judgment was vacated, and a rehearing was ordered.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Griffith, J.)

Concurrence (Kavanaugh, J.)

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