Published On: Tue, Jun 1st, 2010

Supreme Court: no immunity for ex-Somali official

A former Somali prime minister is not protected by sovereign immunity from a lawsuit in the United States for alleged torture and human rights abuses, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

In a unanimous decision, the high court handed a defeat to Mohamed Ali Samantar, who served as Somalia’s defense minister in the 1980s and then as prime minister from 1987 to 1990.

Justice John Paul Stevens said in the ruling that a U.S. law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, protected foreign states and their agencies, but not an official acting on behalf of the state and did not provide Samantar with immunity.

The case had been followed closely for its foreign policy implications. Granting immunity could allow foreign torturers in this country to escape responsibility, human rights groups said.

The lawsuit, seeking financial damages from Samantar, was filed by a small group of Somalis who said they suffered torture or other abuses in their homeland by soldiers or other government officials under Samantar’s general command.

The five plaintiffs do not claim that Samantar personally committed the atrocities or that he was directly involved.

But they said the Somali intelligence agencies and the military police under his command engaged in the killings, rapes and torture, including the use of electric shocks, of civilians.

Samantar has lived in Virginia since 1997 while some of the plaintiffs are naturalized U.S. citizens. They brought the lawsuit in 2004 under a U.S. law called the Torture Victim Protection Act.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, but a U.S. appeals court reinstated it, ruling the 1976 sovereign immunity law does not apply to individuals. That decision prompted Samantar to appeal to the Supreme Court.

RULING LIMITED TO REACH OF 1976 LAW

Stevens upheld the appeals court’s ruling. He emphasized that the Supreme Court’s decision was narrow, limited only to the reach of the 1976 law and he sent the case back to the judge for more proceedings.

Stevens said whether Samantar may be entitled to immunity under the common law, which is based on judicial precedent rather than legislation, and whether Samantar may have other valid defenses to the charges against him are matters to be decided by the judge.

Somalia has been without central rule since warlords toppled former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. A cycle of civil conflicts has ensued. In the latest chapter of Somalia’s bloody recent history, al Qaeda-linked Islamists have been waging an insurgency against a U.N.-backed interim government.

The Supreme Court case is Samantar v. Yousuf, No. 08-1555. (Editing by Vicki Allen)

Source: Reuters | Tuesday, June 1, 2010

  • HMObsiye

    This is a good news for Somalis everywhere who have encountered injustice under the former dictator and his followers like the Samater, there are others who have committed crime against humanity in Somalia and Somaliland and still hiding somewhere in USA and in other western world. We would like to inform them all that, we know where they are hiding and their days of hiding or denying crime they committed didn't happened is numbered.

  • justice

    good news, long life for justice. long life for human rights.

  • Gobaad

    This is a good news for victims of crime everywhere and a grim reality to those murderers who abuse their power and thought that they were above the law and got away with their heinous crimes against humanity. Well, you can run but you certainly cannot hide. Hunt down Massad style the rest of criminals Somalilanders!

    Ali Samater had lived comfortably and unnoticeably. It is about time he pays his due.

  • Kayse

    Excellent news this is a clear message by US justice to criminals who think they can run away from justice and hide in US backyards.

    It's time to take the next step and remove him from his safe heaven living in the comfort of US tax payers.

    Well done to all those who took part in this case and finally clarifying the US laws for foreign governments and officials.

  • Law School

    * Edit post
    Stevens upheld the appeals court's ruling.???? ONLY .. :shock: He emphasized that the Supreme Court's decision was narrow, limited only to the reach of the 1976 law and he sent the case back to the judge for more proceedings.

    Stevens said whether Samantar may be entitled to immunity under the common law, which is based on judicial precedent rather than legislation, and whether Samantar may have other valid defenses to the charges against him are matters to be decided by the judge. :D :D :D … I did my best to describe it. If you think you've got a better story than .. I Want to Hear: .. Did YOU really win anything :?: :?:

  • ali Adam

    Samater and many other like him hsould accountable for their actions.
    They claimed to the nation when took over the country on revoluation, and they should be accountable for they have done to the people they rule and the country that went toastray due to their action and people are killing each other for revenages. Ali

  • Boqoljireh

    Well done Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice is served. All those who do not know this case, have the right to team up with those who already file this case. So many things happened during that regime's tenure.

    There will be others who will answer what they did to the Somaliland citizens.

  • Maalin

    Good news.
    Time has caught up, "what goes around comes round", so true!!
    If this does not go through, there other ways…through other judicial
    avenues, not necessarily in the US!!!

  • rashid

    thats good news but there are others all over the united states and europe and I feel they should be delet with.

  • reer waqooyi

    Stevens said whether Samantar may be entitled to immunity under the common law, which is based on judicial precedent rather than legislation, and whether Samantar may have other valid defenses to the charges against him are matters to be decided by the judge. :D :D :D … I did my best to describe it. If you think you've got a better story than .. I Want to Hear: .. Did YOU really win anything :?: :?:

    • Gobaad

      We read it and understood. It is still a victory for victims of torture that Ali Samater is not protected by sovereign immunity. The case still has a merit. What is your point?

      • attorney

        victims of torture?? According to Whom?. first you have to prove that ..you're up to the test. … the was fugitive, considered dangerous.. and member of most active terrorist groups SNM.

      • Hurguf

        Gobaad, this person calling himself Reer Waqooyi is a fool, the US Supreme Court rejected Samatar's appeal for immunity. Samatar and his like will have to answer to the courts, whether they have defense or not, the implications is clear, they must answer for war crimes. What is there to spin, the guy has basically been told, "Buddy, you stink, go to court and prove you don't stink",

  • M IRO

    LABA EEFKA DHAAXAAD AFAR QAADDAY SOCODKEE
    ALA MAGANE WAAN RABAY INAY KUGU ADKAATOOD
    CIDNA EERSANWAYDEE
    ILA ARAG AX IYO WAY INAY UUR XUN LEEDAHAY, INAY URUGO LEEDAHAY
    NABSI WAA ABOOR CUNA ADHAXDA IYO FEEDHAHA
    WAA MICI ABEESOO AAYAHA KU LAGADEE.
    m CIGE

  • Hurguf

    Samatar has a case to answer. These people come to the US and think they are living in some thirld world country. There is due process here, and Samatar and others like him, Caanogeel, etc, will have to face justice in the US Courts. Better late than never.

    • wiil waal

      how about daahir riyaale.. sxb.. samatar.. is lanaan gaab.. saa ula soco.. caanogeelna waa sade.. laandheere will see..

  • Hurguf

    Hound him to the grave. Just like he sent many innocent people to their graves. The US Supreme Court has already branded him a war criminal, bankrupt him, take him to the Hague, and let us not forget the others living the easy life in the US..For Whom The Bell Tolls, It Tolls for the likes of Samatar and his cohorts..

  • Gobaad

    It is not a matter of … laan gaab or or laan dheere. And Daahir Riyaale didn't order the destruction and the genocide of the major clan in Somaliland to replace with another clan, Ali Samatar gave the orders. He has to pay for his crimes.

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