Appeals Court: British Airways Owes Damages to Hostages
PARIS (AP) _ An appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling ordering British Airways to pay $5 million to 61 French passengers held as ``human shields″ by Iraq after their jet landed in Kuwait the day the Persian Gulf War began.
The company plans to appeal, according to its lawyer, Fernand Garnault.
Flight BA149 was headed from London to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug. 2, 1990, when it made an unplanned landing in Kuwait City. Iraq had declared war on Kuwait several hours earlier, and by the time the plane landed, Saddam Hussein’s troops occupied the capital.
The Iraqis who controlled the airport took the plane’s 360 passengers and crew hostage, some for up to three months. Most were used as ``human shields″ to protect strategic sites from potential bombing by U.S.-led forces.
The passengers accused the airline of making the stop to drop off British commandos _ a charge both the airline and the British government have denied.
The airline contends the landing was a normal stopover and that it and its crew, as much as the passengers, were victims of events beyond its control.
In November 1995, a French civil court ruled that the airline was ``entirely responsible″ for the unscheduled stop and ordered it to pay damages to the 61 French passengers: $80,000 to those who were held a month, $120,000 to those held three months and $12,000 to each of the detained passengers’ 48 children. That ruling was upheld Tuesday by the appeals court.
``This is a second liberation,″ said Thierry Parfenoff, president of a group of plaintiffs.