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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Federal judge refuses to dismiss torture suit against former Somali colonel
Jennie Ryan at 11:20 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Tuesday refused to dismiss a lawsuit against a former Somali military colonel. The defendant, Abdi Aden Magan, who now lives in Ohio, is charged with torture in connection with actions that allegedly occurred during the military dictatorship of Mohammad Siad Barre. The suit was filed [press release] in 2010 by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) [advocacy website] on behalf of Abukar Hassan Ahmed [case materials], a former law professor and human rights attorney who alleges that Magan ordered his brutal torture in retaliation for Ahmed's criticism of the Barre regime's abuses of the Somali Constitution [text, PDF]. Magan argues that the suit was filed in the wrong county and should therefore be dismissed. He also argues that the suit was filed too long after the occurrence of the alleged abuse. The US Department of State [official website] filed a motion in the case arguing that Magan should not be allowed to claim immunity from the allegations.

In April, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a federal suit against former Somali prime minister and defense minister Mohamed Ali Samantar [JURIST news archive]. Lawyers for Samantar had argued that the case should be dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired and because the courts should not interfere in political matters. In February, a federal judge ruled that Samantar was not entitled to legal immunity from civil lawsuits [JURIST report]. This ruling came after the US Supreme Court [official website] handed down a unanimous decision [JURIST report] in June 2010 that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA) [28 USC §§ 1330, 1602 et seq. text] does not provide foreign officials immunity from civil lawsuits. The suit has been ongoing since 2004 when the plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking damages from Samantar under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 [28 USC § 1350 text]. Samantar was minister of defense and later prime minister of Somalia from 1980 to 1990. Respondents claim that Samantar authorized torture and the extrajudicial killing of them and members of their family. The Isaaq clan, of which the plaintiffs are members, was subjected to systematic persecution during Samantar's time in office before the collapse of the Somali government in 1991 [DOS backgrounder]. Samantar fled Somalia before the collapse of the government and now resides in Virginia.

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