Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, CIV.A.01-2224 JDB.

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtBates
Citation281 F.Supp.2d 105
PartiesAnne DAMMARELL, et al., Plaintiffs, v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.01-2224 JDB.,CIV.A.01-2224 JDB.
Decision Date08 September 2003

Page 105

281 F.Supp.2d 105
Anne DAMMARELL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, et al., Defendants.
No. CIV.A.01-2224 JDB.
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
September 8, 2003.

Page 106

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 107

Stuart Henry Newberger, Crowell & Moring, L.L.P., Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Page 108

MEMORANDUM OPINION (FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS)

BATES, District Judge.


On April 18, 1983, the United States Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was devastated by a massive car bomb that ushered in two decades of terrorist attacks on the United States and its citizens. Sixty-three persons, including seventeen U.S. citizens, were killed, and over one hundred others were injured. Now, in this civil action, over eighty plaintiffs—victims of the bombing and their families—seek to assign liability for their injuries to the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran") and its agent the Ministry of Intelligence and Security ("MOIS"). Below, the Court sets forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law as to those claims.1

The Court will proceed in three steps. First, it will present its findings as to the causes of the bombing—specifically, its findings that Iran and MOIS were indeed responsible for supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the unconscionable attack. Second, the Court will detail the personal accounts of the plaintiffs in this action—stories that supply the necessary human dimension to the stark, horrifying skeleton of the bombing itself. Third, and finally, the Court will set forth its legal and remedial conclusions to bring this litigation to a close with some measure of relief for the plaintiffs.2 Given recent developments in the law, that relief will not include punitive damages, but does consist of a total award of $123,061,657 in compensatory damages to this group of plaintiffs.

To be sure, neither this Memorandum Opinion nor this litigation can truly afford satisfactory relief from or bring closure to the terror and tragedy intentionally caused by the bombing. As the witnesses often recognized, no amount of monetary or other relief can ever bring back those who were killed or restore the past twenty years of the lives of those who have been injured and have suffered. But as those same witnesses frequently observed, perhaps it is only through the financial impact of damage awards in cases such as this that the governments (and their agents) responsible for terrorist conduct such as the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut will be dissuaded from similar conduct in the future.

FINDINGS OF FACT

I. CAUSES OF THE EMBASSY BOMBING

A. Lebanon Before 1984 and the Emergence of Hizbollah

The country of Lebanon consists of dozens of different ethnic and religious groups, including Sunni Muslims, Shi`ite Muslims,3 Maronite Christians, and Druze. In the first part of the twentieth century, Lebanon's political system was structured

Page 109

to provide for the sharing of power among the different ethnic and religious groups. See, e.g., Tr. Vol. I at 94-95.4

By 1975, however, the political power sharing arrangements did not reflect the country's actual demographics, causing general unrest among the population. See, e.g., Tr. Vol. I at 95-96. These tensions culminated in the outbreak, in 1975, of what became a fifteen-year civil war. In the early years of the civil war, the United States and its nationals were not specifically targeted by the warring factions. See Tr. Vol. I at 123. This changed after the occurrence of two historically significant events.

First, in 1979, the Shah of Iran, an ally of the United States, was overthrown by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his followers, who set up a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iran. One of the revolutionaries' objectives was to establish Iran as the preeminent power in the Middle East by, among other things, forcing the United States and other Western nations out of the region.

Second, in the summer of 1982, Israel invaded southern Lebanon, putatively in order to prevent the Palestinian Liberation Organization ("PLO") from conducting terrorist activities across Lebanon's border with Israel. See Tr. Vol. I at 100. Southern Lebanon at that time was home to a substantial portion of Lebanon's Shi`ite population. See Tr. Vol. I at 96.

Together, the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon led to a radicalization of Lebanon's Shi`ite community. As Dr. Patrick Clawson, Deputy Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (see Tr. Vol. II at 3) and an expert in Iranian politics, the Iranian economy, and Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, testified:

[T]he Lebanese Shi`a community had historically been politically quietistic and had deep links with Iran, a fellow Shi`a country.... [A]fter the Iranian Revolution in 1979, there's a lot of interest by this new Iranian government encouraging political activism among the Lebanese Shi`ites.

Tr. Vol. II at 9. Iran's efforts met with "mixed success" until the 1982 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon. Id. With the invasion, the "Israelis quickly alienate[d] the Shi`ite population," which in tum became "much more receptive to the Iranian message of anti-Western, anti-Israeli propaganda." Tr. Vol. II at 9-10; see also Exh. 34(1) at 2 (declassified 1984 CIA document noting that "[t]he [1979] Iranian revolution ... and the Israeli invasion of predominantly-Shi`a southern Lebanon galvanized the Shi`a and set the stage for the emergence of radical groups prone to terrorism"). The United States was a principal target of propaganda because by this time it "had become identified with the Israelis and ... [was] seen as an enemy of Islam and as an enemy of Iran because [of its support for] the Iraqis in the war against Iran." Exh. 19 (Transcript of Deposition of Robert Oakley) at 15.

It was in this context that Iran began pouring money and personnel into southern Lebanon to empower and train the Lebanese Shi`ites—who traditionally had been economically oppressed—to aid Iran in its goals of eradicating Westerners from the country and establishing an Islamic state. See Exh. 19 at 20-22, 50-52; Tr.

Page 110

Vol. II at 12-13; see also Exh. 34(7) at 2. Of principal importance in this regard, Iran began cultivating the development of a terrorist group among the Shi`ites that went by various names, including Hizbollah,5 Islamic Jihad, Right Against Wrong, and the Revolutionary Justice Organization. See Exh. 19 (Oakley Depo. Tr.) at 46; see also Oakley Depo. Exh. 10 (also at Exh. 29) at 304.

Among other things, Iran provided Hizbollah with military arms, training, and other supplies, and issued propaganda to encourage Lebanese Shi`ites to join the organization. Exh. 34(5) at 2; see Exh. 34(1) at 2 (CIA analysis finding that Iran provided "training and military support to the radical Shi`a groups based in the Bekka Valley"). In fact, soldiers from Iran's elite military unit, the Revolutionary Guard, set up headquarters in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to train Hizbollah recruits. Oakley Depo. Exh. 9 (also at Exh. 28); Exh. 10 (also Exh. 29) at 304; Exh. 34(5) at 2. By early 1985, the U.S. Government had "fresh and convincing evidence that radical elements highly placed within ... the government of Iran [were] giving operational policy advice to terrorists in Lebanon, specifically terrorists operating under the name `Islamic Jihad' or Hizbollah." Exh. 27 at 1; (also at Oakley Depo. Exh. 8).

Iran also provided Hizbollah with financial support. Indeed, while support of Hizbollah was not specifically provided for in Iran's annual budget, "Hisballah, the supreme religious leader and the president openly acknowledged that Iran was providing financial support, in fact proudly acknowledged that Iran was providing the financial support" for Hizbollah. Tr. Vol. II at 30. Dr. Clawson estimated that in 1983, the year of the Beirut Embassy bombing, Iran spent in the range of $50 million to $150 million on its terrorist efforts. Tr. Vol. II at 31.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Hizbollah undertook a series of terrorist acts directed at Westerners. See Tr. Vol. II at 15-16; 24; see also Exh. 31 (chronology of Hizbollah terrorist activities targeting United States interests in Lebanon from 1982-1988). One of the first events was the July 1982 kidnaping of David Dodge, then the Acting President of the American University of Beirut. See, e.g., Tr. Vol. I at 124-25. This was a significant development, as "after the American embassy or maybe even more than the American embassy, the American University of Beirut is the symbol of America in Lebanon, indeed a very proud symbol in many respects." Id. at 124.

Other acts of terror against Western interests followed: the bombings of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks and French paratrooper base in October 1983 (see, e.g., Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 264 F.Supp.2d 46 (D.D.C.2003)); the murder of Malcolm Kerr, President of the American University of Beirut, in January 1984; the United States Embassy Annex bombing in September 1984; and the kidnaping, from 1982 to 1991, of 50 Western hostages, including American, British, French and German nationals. See Exh. 34(8) at 3; Exh. 29 at 305-307; see also Exh. 19 (Oakley Depo. Tr.) at 27-28, quoting Oakley Depo. Exh. 3; see generally Tr. Vol. II at 22-30.

Hizbollah accomplished its terrorist acts not just with the support of the Iranian government generally, but with the specific

Page 111

assistance of MOIS. An Iranian government ministry, MOIS was formally established by law in 1983 or 1984, although it had previously existed as an offshoot of the secret police under the regime of the former Shah of Iran. See Tr. Vol. II at 32-33. At the time, it was the second-most respected intelligence agency in the Middle East, after the Israeli intelligence apparatus. See id. at 33. As part of its operations, MOIS acted, and continues to act, as "a prime conduit to terrorist and extremist...

To continue reading

Request your trial
50 practice notes
  • Kashani v. Tsann Kuen China Enterprise Co., No. B166041.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 11, 2004
    ...23, 1984)), where it has remained since that time.10 (22 C.F.R. § 126.1(d) (2003); Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran (D.D.C.2003) 281 F.Supp.2d 105, 112; Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran (D.D.C.2003) 264 F.Supp.2d 46, 51, fn. On March 15, 1995, President Clinton announced "that the ......
  • Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 16-1625 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 4, 2020
    ...by family members and individuals killed or injured in 1983 or 1984 attacks); Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran (Dammarell I ), 281 F. Supp. 2d 105, 108–113 (D.D.C. 2003) (suit involving over eighty survivors of 1983 Embassy attack). In fact, as Special Master Griffin's report states, t......
  • Owens v. Republic of Sudan, No. CIV.A.01-2244(JDB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • January 26, 2006
    ...in predominantly commercial activities" to support a claim for punitive damages). See also Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 281 F.Supp.2d 105, 200-02 (D.D.C.2003) (Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security is not an "agency or instrumentality" of the government); Roeder v. Islamic ......
  • Oveissi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 03-1197(RCL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 3, 2007
    ...functions are governmental rather than commercial, "it is considered the foreign state itself"); Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 281 F.Supp.2d 105, 200-01 (D.D.C.2003) (Bates, J.) [hereinafter Dammarell I] (concluding that MOIS should be treated as the state of Iran, itself, for liab......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
50 cases
  • Kashani v. Tsann Kuen China Enterprise Co., No. B166041.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 11, 2004
    ...23, 1984)), where it has remained since that time.10 (22 C.F.R. § 126.1(d) (2003); Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran (D.D.C.2003) 281 F.Supp.2d 105, 112; Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran (D.D.C.2003) 264 F.Supp.2d 46, 51, fn. On March 15, 1995, President Clinton announced "that the ......
  • Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 16-1625 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 4, 2020
    ...by family members and individuals killed or injured in 1983 or 1984 attacks); Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran (Dammarell I ), 281 F. Supp. 2d 105, 108–113 (D.D.C. 2003) (suit involving over eighty survivors of 1983 Embassy attack). In fact, as Special Master Griffin's report states, t......
  • Owens v. Republic of Sudan, No. CIV.A.01-2244(JDB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • January 26, 2006
    ...in predominantly commercial activities" to support a claim for punitive damages). See also Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 281 F.Supp.2d 105, 200-02 (D.D.C.2003) (Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security is not an "agency or instrumentality" of the government); Roeder v. Islamic ......
  • Oveissi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 03-1197(RCL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 3, 2007
    ...functions are governmental rather than commercial, "it is considered the foreign state itself"); Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 281 F.Supp.2d 105, 200-01 (D.D.C.2003) (Bates, J.) [hereinafter Dammarell I] (concluding that MOIS should be treated as the state of Iran, itself, for liab......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT