Sudanese victims ask French judges to investigate BNP Paribas’ role in atrocities

Press release
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Nine Sudanese victims, supported by FIDH and Project Expedite Justice, have filed a criminal complaint today targeting BNP Paribas for alleged complicity in crimes against humanity, torture, and genocide that took place in Sudan, as well as financial offences. This complaint marks the first attempt to hold the French bank criminally responsible for alleged complicity in international crimes committed in Sudan, and Darfur in particular. Between at least 2002 and 2008, BNPP was considered to be Sudan’s “de facto central bank”.

A criminal complaint was filed this morning with investigative judges in Paris.

"We call on the French authorities to promptly open an investigation to determine whether BNP is criminally responsible for its dealings with Sudan.

Michel Tubiana, lawyer and Ligue des Droits de l'Homme honorary President

Prosecuted in the United States for dealing with Sudan, Iran and Cuba in violation of U.S. sanctions, BNPP has admitted to acting as Sudan’s foreign bank between 2002 and 2008. The U.S. Department of Justice has described BNPP as Sudan’s “de facto central bank” because it gave the Sudanese government access to the U.S. financial system and processed billions of dollars worth of transactions on behalf of sanctioned Sudanese entities. BNPP provided these services while Sudan was under sanctions from the UN, the EU, and several countries for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sudanese civilians.

BNPP entered into a plea agreement and the case led to a record $8.9 billion fine in July 2014. But, Sudanese victims did not ultimately receive any compensation as the U.S. Congress diverted the funds to victims of domestic terrorist attacks.

"Behind the gravest crimes and human rights violations there is always money. By granting the Sudanese regime access to international money markets, BNPP allowed the government to function, pay its staff, military and security forces, make purchases abroad, all while Sudan was a pariah on the international scene for planning and committing crimes in Darfur.”

Patrick Baudouin, lawyer and FIDH honorary President

From 2002 to 2008, the Sudanese government – through its military and security forces and Janjaweed militias – committed widespread human rights violations that led to the death of more than 300,000 Sudanese civilians. Marginalised communities in Darfur and other areas inside Sudan were the primary targets of mass murder, forced displacement, sexual violence, detention, torture, and other forms of inhumane treatment. Despite being widely documented, these crimes have largely gone unpunished. Arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against former President Omar al-Bashir and other high-level suspects from his government have never been executed.

"We want to make the voices of Sudanese victims heard through this complaint. To this day, they have been denied the possibility of justice, whether in Sudan, before the ICC or in the U.S. "

Mossaad M. Ali - Executive Director, ACJPS)

"This step complements the heroic efforts by activists and citizens on the ground in Sudan to fight impunity and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable. "

Magdi El Na’im (Secretary-General, SHRM)

FIDH lawyers, in partnership with Project Expedite Justice, have collected testimonies from nine victims of torture, crimes against humanity, and genocide that took place in Sudan. These victims filed the complaint in France today in the hope that an investigation will be opened, this time focused on the potential criminal responsibility of BNPP and the bank’s senior staff.

A criminal investigation is already underway in France on BNPP’s role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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