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Miango v. Democratic Republic of Congo

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 16, 2018

JACQUES DIEUDONNE ITONG MIANGO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Jacques Miango, Matala Kayaya, and Ouwo Likutu allege that they were beaten by security forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo ("DRC") when they participated in a protest across the street from the Washington, D.C. hotel where the DRC President and his delegation were staying. See Second Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 39] ¶¶ 21-26. According to the complaint, DRC security forces also stole multiple items from Miango's parked car. See Id. ¶¶ 27-34. Plaintiffs Miango, Kayaya, and Likutu, along with Miango's wife Michelle Miango ("M. Miango") filed a lengthy complaint against the DRC and individual DRC officials, among others, pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1605, setting forth multiple tort claims as well as several constitutional claims. Id. ¶¶ 117-132, 145-56, 173-82.

         Pending before the Court are seven motions for default judgment against the DRC; its President, Joseph Kabila Kabange; Jean Marie Kassamba, a DRC press spokesman; and Jacques Mukaleng Makal, Raymond Tshibanda, Sam Mpengo Mbey, and SeraphinNgwej, members of the President's entourage. See Mots, for Default J. [Dkt. ## 116-17, 119-23]. The Court initially found that plaintiffs did not provide sufficient justification through detailed affidavits or any other documentation to support their claims or requested damages, and it ordered them to supplement their motions with "'satisfactory evidence' to prove that they have established their claim to relief and their entitlement to the amount of monetary damages requested." See Order [Dkt. # 124], Plaintiffs have since supplemented their motions, see Pls.' Am. Mot. and Supp. Mot. for Default J. [Dkt # 128] ("Pls.' Am. Mot."); Exhibits to Pls.' Am. Mot. [Dkt. # 129], and while the submissions still leave something to be desired, the Court finds that it has grounds to grant all seven motions for default judgment and enter judgment in the amount of $562, 660.06.

         BACKGROUND

         The factual and procedural background of this case are laid out in detail in the Court's Memorandum Opinion granting motions to dismiss filed by other defendants - the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Secret Service, Capella Hotel Groups, LLC, and Castleton Hotel Partners, LLC. See Miango v. Democratic Republic of the Congo, 243 F.Supp.3d 113 (D.D.C. 2017). Therefore, the Court will address the facts only briefly here.

         Plaintiff Jacques Miango is a refugee of the DRC who currently lives in Maryland with his wife. Second Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 39] ¶ 2. He describes himself as "a known opponent and activist against the DRC government's] human rights violations." Id. Plaintiffs Kayaya and Likutu are Congolese by national original and are legal residents of Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 4-5.[1]

         On August 6, 2014, plaintiffs Miango, Kayaya, and Likutu staged a protest against the DRC on the sidewalk across the street from the Capella Hotel. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 27. Shortly after they arrived, plaintiffs saw the DRC s press official, defendant Jeanmarie Kassamba, returning to the hotel. Id. ¶ 27. Miango and his fellow protestors shouted at defendant Kassamba and held up signs condemning rape, corruption, genocide, dictatorship, and human rights violations in the DRC. Id. Defendant Kassamba entered the hotel and came back out with "apparent security enforcers of the Kabila regime." Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiffs claim that the DRC security forces approached Miango and "began belittling, threatening, intimidating and disrupting" him and the other protestors. Id. Soon after, President Kabila arrived at the hotel. Id.¶ 31. Miango started shouting at him, and plaintiffs claim that the President recognized Miango as a "dissident." Id.

         According to the complaint, after President Kabila entered the hotel, another group of DRC security forces "rushed out" of the building and joined the group already harassing Miango and the other protestors. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 32. They "immediately began physically attacking" the protestors, and though plaintiff Kayaya was able to escape, Miango was "knocked down to the ground, beaten, kicked, choked, and stomped on" by the security forces. Id. As a result, Miango lost several teeth and suffered a concussion and injuries to his spine and neck. Id. Plaintiffs allege that after the DRC security forces beat Miango, they broke into his parked car and stole protest materials, a computer, an iPod, a camera, and other property belonging to plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 34.

         Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint on May 10, 2016, alleging various torts and constitutional claims against the DRC, Joseph Kabila Kabange, Jeanmarie Kassamba, Jacques Mukaleng Makal, Seraphin Ngwej, Raymond Tshibanda, Leonard Ngoy Lulu, Sam Mpengo Mbey, the United States Secret Service, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"), Castleton Hotel Partners LLC, and Capella Hotels Group LLC. See Second Am. Compl. The Court dismissed the claims against the Secret Service, MPD, Castleton Hotels and Capella Hotels, see Miango, 243 F.Supp.3d 113, and it terminated defendant Lulu since he was never properly served. See Min. Order (Dec. 15, 2016). However, a number of counts remain:

• Count I: Crimes Against Humanity in Violation of the Law of Nations and/or Treaty of the U.S. against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count II: Cruel and Degrading Treatment in Violation of the Law of Nations and/or Treaty of the U.S. against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count III: Deprivation of Constitutional and Civil Rights in Violation of 42 U.S.C. §§1983, 1988 (First Amendment Freedom of Speech and Assembly) against all defendants;
• Count IV: Deprivation of Right to Enter One's Own Country in Violation of the Law of Nations and/or Treaty of the U.S. against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count V: Infringement Upon Rights to Free Expression, Assembly, Thought, and Association in Violation of the Law of Nations and/or Treaty of the U.S. against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count VI: Deprivation of Equal Protection Under the Law in Violation of the Law of Nations and/or Treaty of the U.S. against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count VII: Aiding and Abetting Acts in Violation of the Law of Nations and/or Treaty of the U.S. against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count VIII: Battery against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count IX: Assault against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, Joseph Kabila, and the hotel companies;
• Count X: Deprivation of Constitutional and Civil Rights in Violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 ("First Amendment Freedom of Speech And Assembly Clause, Fourth Amendment Due Process and Search and Seizure Clauses, Fifth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, and Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause") against the DRC and Joseph Kabila;
• Count XI: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against the individual/official capacity defendants, the DRC, and Joseph Kabila;
• Count XII: False Imprisonment against the individual/official capacity defendants, the Democratic Republic of Congo Government, the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Joseph Kabila-
• Count XV: Trespassing, Conversion and Theft against the individual/official capacity defendants, the Democratic Republic of Congo Government, Joseph Kabila, and the hotel companies; and
• Count XVI: Loss of Consortium against all defendants.

         The remaining defendants failed to file an answer or otherwise respond to plaintiffs' complaint. On March 22, 2017, the Clerk of the Court entered default as to all seven defendants, see Clerk's Order of Default [Dkt. # 114], and plaintiffs have moved for default judgment against those defendants. See Pis. 'Am Mot.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) provides that the clerk of the court must enter a party's default "[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After a default has been entered, a party may apply to the Court for a default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b).

         Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a court may not enter a default judgment against a foreign state "unless the claimant establishes his claim or right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e); Han Kim v. Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 774 F.3d 1044, 1047 (D.C. Cir. 2014) ("[W]hen the defendant State fails to appear and the plaintiff seeks a default judgment, FSIA leaves it to the court to determine precisely how much and what kinds of evidence the plaintiff must provide, requiring only that it be ' satisfactory to the court.'"). This standard is identical to the standard for entry of default judgments against the United States under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(d). Hill v. Republic of Iraq, 328 F.3d 680, 683 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

         Given the considerations of sovereign immunity that pertain notwithstanding the default, a court must carefully scrutinize the plaintiffs allegations and "may not unquestioningly accept a complaint's unsupported allegations as true." Reed v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 845 F.Supp.2d 204, 211 (D.D.C. 2012), citing Rimkus v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 750 F.Supp.2d 163, 171 (D.D.C. 2010). In a default proceeding under the FSIA, a plaintiff may establish proof through testimony, documentation, and affidavits. Id.; Spencer v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 922 F.Supp.2d 108, 109 (D.D.C. 2013), citing Blais v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 459 F.Supp.2d 40, 53 (D.D.C. 2006).

         ANALYSIS

         I. The Court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims under the FSIA.

         At the outset, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the Court has jurisdiction to hear their claims and that the Democratic ...


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