Hausfeld files lawsuit on behalf of international aid workers brutalized by South Sudanese government forces in the Terrain Hotel attack
July 8, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) – Today, global litigation firm Hausfeld filed a complaint against the government of South Sudan on behalf of seven former international aid workers from Internews, an American media freedom NGO, and the widow of a murdered Internews journalist.
The case seeks to hold South Sudan’s government accountable for the notorious Terrain Hotel attack—a rampage of torture, gang-rape, and murder that targeted aid workers.
As South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, marks its 10th anniversary of independence on July 9, the fledgling democracy’s first decade has been marred by ongoing impunity for human rights violators and a pattern of weaponizing rape.
Today’s complaint asserts that the Internews aid workers and journalists were brutally attacked and gang-raped by South Sudanese military forces on July 11, 2016, during a raid on the Terrain Hotel, a residential compound housing aid workers.
Since 2016, the South Sudanese government has retraumatized the victims through repeated violations of due process and false promises of compensation. In 2018, a South Sudanese court martial convicted 10 soldiers and ordered the government to compensate the victims. The victims appealed the grossly inadequate amount of compensation: only $4,000 to rape-victims and 51 cows to the heirs of a murdered journalist. The government obstructed the appeal, however, by “losing” the entire case file under suspicious circumstances.
Since 2019, the government has misled the victims and U.S. officials into believing that the government was committed to fairly compensating the victims. In reality, the government struck a fraudulent deal with a lawyer posing as counsel to the victims and then foisted the terms of that deal on the victims. In August 2020, several victims relented to government pressure and accepted the deal. But nearly one year later, the government has failed to keep its promises. To date, the government has not compensated a single victim of gang-rape, torture, and other atrocities.
In the course of recent negotiations with Hausfeld, the South Sudanese government responded to the victims’ demands by encouraging them to bring claims and consented to the filing of a complaint in U.S. federal court.
Today’s filing is brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows federal courts to hear claims against foreign states when those states have waived their immunity, which the defendants have done.
“The Terrain Hotel attack shocked the world’s conscience. But the government’s continuing mistreatment of the victims suggests that no lessons have been learned,” explained Hausfeld human rights attorney Scott Gilmore, who is leading this case alongside Hausfeld’s James Gotz and Jeanette Bayoumi. “The Terrain victims deserve fair compensation and all victims of sexual violence in South Sudan deserve meaningful accountability.”
“While the Terrain hotel company was given more $2 million, the compensation offered to a subset of the victims was demeaning and reflected utter disregard for human suffering,” said Plaintiff Natalie Chang. “Our attempts to appeal the case in South Sudan have been cut off since the President’s Office claims to have lost the court martial case file. Our patience with the government has run out, and we feel that we have no other choice but to pursue this claim in a US court.”
Plaintiff Jane Doe, who is proceeding anonymously, stated, “The trauma we experienced during the Terrain attack was just a small window into the horrific atrocities that South Sudanese men, women, and children have suffered throughout the country’s civil conflicts. As international victims, we must raise our voices for those who don’t have the same opportunities to share their story.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Hausfeld is a global litigation law firm. Working alongside our clients, we have shaped law around the world, transformed legal practice with new ideas, and brought claims that others aren’t bold enough to bring. We pioneered the development of flexible fee structures and case funding, enabling our clients across the globe to pursue dispute resolution with no or limited legal cost risk or up-front financial burden. Our firm combines highly experienced litigators and arbitrators with a proven track record in claimant litigation across the following practice areas and sectors: antitrust and competition, commercial and financial disputes, environmental law, human rights, product liability, and technology and data breach issues. With 12 global offices in the US, UK and Europe, we continue to achieve landmark settlements and precedent-setting legal decisions in complex cases for our clients worldwide, often after hard-fought litigation against the biggest names in the legal market.
Socially minded and champions for the best corporate governance, we are proud to be at the forefront of the legal profession in improving access to justice for both individuals and businesses. That makes us a profoundly different law firm.
For more information about Hausfeld, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit www.hausfeld.com