The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce Lamberth, District Judge
On March 17-18, 2003, this Court conducted a bench trial to determine the liability of the defendants for this inhuman act. Having reviewed the extensive evidence presented during that trial by both lay and expert witnesses, the Court has determined that the plaintiffs have established their right to obtain judicial relief against the defendants. The Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are set forth below.
The plaintiffs in these two actions are family members of the 241 deceased servicemen (hereafter, "the servicemen") and the injured survivors of the attack. Plaintiffs have brought these actions in their own right, as administrators of the estates of the servicemen, and on behalf of the servicemen's heirs-at-law. All decedents and injured survivors of the attack were serving in the U.S. armed forces at the time of their injuries or death. All plaintiffs are nationals of the United States.*fn1
On October 3 and December 28, 2001, plaintiffs filed separate complaints with this Court. The complaints included statutory claims for wrongful death and common-law claims for battery, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, all resulting from an act of state-sponsored terrorism. Plaintiffs sought relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. Although defendants were served with the two complaints on May 6 and July 17, 2002, defendants failed to file any response to either complaint, and on December 18, 2002, this Court entered defaults against defendants in both cases.
However, despite the entries of default, this Court is required to make a further inquiry prior to entering any judgment against defendants. FSIA mandates that a default judgment against a foreign state be entered only after a plaintiff "establishes his claim or right to relief by evidence that is satisfactory to the Court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e); see also Flatow v. The Islamic Republic of Iran, 999 F. Supp. 1, 6 (D.D.C. 1998). As in Flatow, the Court will require plaintiffs to establish their right to relief by clear and convincing evidence. The "clear and convincing" standard of proof is the standard required in the District of Columbia to support a claim for punitive damages, and is sufficient to establish a prima facie case in a contested proceeding.
A. Historical Background*fn2
The Republic of Lebanon is a mountainous country of approximately 3,800,000 people bordered by Israel, Syria, and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Although it contains some of the oldest human settlements in the world, including the Phoenician port cities of Tyre and Sidon, it did not become an independent nation until 1944.
Lebanon did not participate militarily in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. However, by 1973, approximately one out of every ten person living in Lebanon was a Palestinian refugee, many of whom supported the efforts of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) against Israel. Some of these refugees engaged in guerilla warfare and terrorist activity against Israel from bases established in southern Lebanon. Beginning in 1968, Israel engaged in reprisals against these Palestinian strongholds in southern Lebanon. In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon between its Muslim inhabitants and Palestinian refugees, who supported the PLO, and its Christian inhabitants, who opposed the PLO's actions. The war would not come to a complete end for another fifteen years, during which approximately twenty thousand Lebanese were killed, and approximately the same number of Lebanese were wounded.
B. The Arrival of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit
In late 1982, with the concurrence of the United Nations, a multinational peacekeeping coalition consisting of American, British, French, and Italian soldiers arrived in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. In May of 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit of the U.S. Marines ("the 24th MAU") joined this coalition.*fn3 The rules of engagement issued to the servicemen of the 24th MAU made clear that the servicemen possessed neither combatant nor police powers. In fact, under the rules, the servicemen were ordered not to carry weapons with live rounds in their chambers, and were not authorized to chamber the rounds in their weapons unless (1) they were directly ordered to do so by a commissioned officer or (2) they found themselves in a situation requiring the immediate use of deadly force in self-defense.*fn4 As pointed out during trial, the members of the 24th MAU were more restricted in their use of force than an ordinary U.S. citizen walking down a street in Washington, D.C.
The restrictive rules of engagement are consistent with the testimony of Col. Timothy Geraghty, the commander of the 24th MAU, about the mission of the multinational peacekeeping force:
[E]ssentially what it was, it was primarily a
peacekeeping mission and it was to show [our]
presence, and when I say ours, and this is throughout
all the forces, is that we were out showing a
presence, [primarily] to provide stability to the
area. And I might add that there's no doubt in just
about anyone involved at the time, we saved a lot of
lives by our presence there for awhile. And that was
part of, I might add, in my judgment, the success of
that, our presence mission there, and [that] it was
working is the primary reason why we were
targeted. . . .
The rules — these were geared primarily again
with the peacekeeping mission [in mind] and the
sensitivities of killing or maiming someone
accidentally. That could be a tinderbox. That could
start a whole chain of events.
Col. Geraghty further testified that the location and security of the 24th MAU's position was not tactical in nature, and was only acceptable to the commanding officer in the context of the unit's mission to "provide a presence."
Based on the testimony of Col. Geraghty and other witnesses, the Court finds that on October 23, 1983, the members of the 24th MAU, and the service members supporting the unit, were clearly non-combatants operating under peacetime rules of engagement.*fn5
C. The Iranian Government and the October 23 Attack*fn6
Following the 1979 revolution spearheaded by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the nation of Iran was transformed into an Islamic theocracy. The new government promptly drafted a constitution, which is still in effect today. The preamble to the 1979 constitution sets forth the mission of the post-revolutionary Iranian state:
With due attention to the Islamic content of the
Iranian Revolution, the Constitution provides the
necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the
Revolution at home and abroad. In particular, in the
development of international relations, the
Constitution will strive with other Islamic and
popular movements to prepare the way for the formation
of a single world community . . . to assure the
continuation of the struggle for the liberation of all
deprived and oppressed peoples in the world.
The post-revolutionary government in Iran thus declared its commitment to spread the goals of the 1979 revolution to other nations. Towards that end, between 1983 and 1988, the government of Iran spent approximately $50 to $150 million financing terrorist organizations in the Near East.*fn7 One of the nations to which the Iranian government directed its attention was the war-torn republic of Lebanon.
"Hezbollah" is an Arabic word meaning "the party of God." It is also the name of a group of Shi'ite Muslims in Lebanon that was formed under the auspices of the government of Iran. Hezbollah began its existence as a faction within a group of moderate Lebanese Shi'ites known as Amal. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Iranian government sought to radicalize the Lebanese Shi'ite community, and encouraged Hezbollah to split from Amal. Having established the existence of Hezbollah as a separate entity, the government of Iran framed the primary objective of Hezbollah: to engage in terrorist activities in furtherance of the transformation of Lebanon into an Islamic theocracy modeled after Iran.
During the March trial in these cases, Dr. Patrick Clawson, a widely-renowned expert on Iranian affairs over the past 25 years, testified that in 1983, Hezbollah was a creature of the Iranian government:
Both from the accounts of Hezbollah members and from
the accounts of the Iranians and of every academic
study that I'm aware of, certainly at this time,
Hezbollah is largely under Iranian orders. It's almost
entirely acting at the — under the order of the
Iranians and being financed almost entirely by the
Iranians. It comes to be an organization with Lebanese
roots and Lebanese activities and more independence
from Iran, but that's years past this time frame.
THE COURT: In the '83 time frame, it was essentially
a tool of Iran.
THE WITNESS: Correct, sir. Indeed, both Iranian and
Lebanese observers have described it as
being established at Iran's orders and as
being a creature of Iran when it began.
Hezbollah leaders today will sometimes
describe that as the roots of their party
and say that it has evolved away from
Q: Was there any other major means of support for
Hezbollah other than the Islamic Republic of Iran?
A: Not at this time, no, sir.*fn8
Q: Now, as of the time of this attack, in October
1983, to what extent was Hezbollah, at that precise
moment, dependent upon the support of Iran, and
particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who
had been brought in in order to carry out any type
of major [military] operation?
A: Well, I would say that they were, at that time,
totally relied upon, the Iranian support. We are
talking about composing a new group, of Hezbollah,
out of people who had very little military
experience. They were members, before '82, in
groups that actually did not deal with military
issues or terrorism. And most of the members during
this process of unification that created Hezbollah
started to be trained in training camps in the
Bekaa Valley, where the main Iranian forces were
Q: Do you have an opinion, within a reasonable degree
of certainty, as an expert on Islamist terrorism,
whether this attack was carried out by Hezbollah,
in response to the order which was the subject of
the communications intercept in late September
A: Yes, especially at that time — even today,
but especially at that time, when Hezbollah was not
yet formed as a strong group, it was totally
controlled by Iran and actually served mainly the
Iranian interest in Lebanon and [against] Israel.
Q: Do you have an opinion, again within a reasonable
degree of certainty, as an expert in Islamist
terrorist groups, as to whether Hezbollah, at that
time, the fall of 1983, would have had the capacity
to carry out an attack of the dimension of the
attack around the Marine barracks, in the absence
of Iranian scientific, financial, and material
A: No, I don't think they could have carried out such
an attack without Iranian training, without Iranian
— Iranian supply of the explosives even, and
without directions from the Iranian forces in
Q: Dr. Paz, can you describe the — the source of
— of this technique of suicide bombing, which
was used in the attack on the Marine barracks and
since, unfortunately, many other incidents?
It is clear that the formation and emergence of Hezbollah as a major terrorist organization is due to the government of Iran. Hezbollah presently receives extensive financial and military technical support from Iran, which funds and supports terrorist activities. The primary agency through which the Iranian government both established and exercised operational control over Hezbollah was the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS"). MOIS had formerly served as the secret police of the Shah of Iran prior to his overthrow in 1979. Despite the revolutionary government's complete break with the old regime, it did not disband MOIS, but instead allowed it to continue its operations as the intelligence organization of the new government. Based on the evidence presented at trial, the Court finds that MOIS acted as a conduit for the Islamic Republic of Iran's provision of funds to Hezbollah, provided explosives to Hezbollah and, at all times relevant to these proceedings, exercised operational control over Hezbollah.
It is clear that MOIS was no rogue agency acting outside of the control and authority of the Iranian government. Indeed, as Dr. Clawson testified at trial, the October 23 attack would have been impossible without the express ...