NEWS

Victims of the 1983 Beirut bombing will finally be compensated

A federal judge has awarded a $920 million judgment to 80 victims of the 1983 bombing of a Beirut USMC barracks. The judgment is against the government of Iran for supporting Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for the bombing.


Wreckage and remains — USMC barracks, Beirut, 1983 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a national plaintiffs' law firm, filed the lawsuit in 2014, suing Iran on behalf of the victims of the attack. While foreign nations are normally granted sovereign immunity from US lawsuits, Cohen Milstein argued that compensation is due under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows citizens to sue foreign countries if they are victims of state-sponsored terror. Cohen Milstein argued that Hezbollah perpetrated the attack at the direction and with the support of Iran.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the judgment after Iran failed to respond to the lawsuit, awarding roughly $207.2 million in compensatory damages and $712.8 million in punitive damages to a plaintiff group made up of service members injured in the Beirut attack and the estates and family members of those who perished.

The memory of the 1983 USMC barracks bombing in Beirut, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US military history, has surely been eclipsed in the minds of the American public by the horrors of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent drumbeat of terrorist bombings that underscores the Global War on Terror.  At the time, the Beirut bombing was considered by the FBI to be the largest car bomb attack ever and the largest non-nuclear detonation since WWII, but it's likely that neither designation still applies.

Vice President George H.W. Bush tours the bomb site, led by Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley (left) and Col. Tim Geraghty. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Nonetheless, for the families of the 220 Marines, 18 Sailors, and 3 Soldiers who lost their lives in the attack, the day still lives in infamy. Though Iran isn't participating in the suit, the judgement gives the plaintiffs access to restitution from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which was set up to provide compensation to the 53 Americans who were held captive for 444 days at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 - 1980, but was expected to extend to other victims of state-sponsored terror.

Several more lawsuits against Iran are ongoing.