10th March 2015: The US Supreme Court has upheld a ruling awarding four men of Somali origin $21 million in damages for torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses committed by former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Mohamed Ali Samantar. The men – Bashe Yousuf, Aziz Deria, Buralle Mahamoud, and Ahmed Gulaid – were represented by SRT grantee the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA).
CJA’s case against Samantar was filed in 2004. In 2012, Samantar accepted responsibility for crimes committed against the civilian population during the 1969-1991 Siad Barré military dictatorship. After the regime collapsed, Samantar fled Somalia and settled in Virginia where he has lived for the past 18 years. CJA’s case marked the first time that any Somali government official had been held accountable for the atrocities committed during this regime.
A US District Court Judge ruled in favour of CJA’s clients after their attorneys presented evidence demonstrating the atrocities committed by Samantar. Despite accepting liability, Samantar petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear his case, claiming immunity for acts he says were taken in his official capacity. Today’s Supreme Court ruling follows an affirmation by the US State Department that the Somali Federal Government does not seek immunity for Samantar.
CJA’s Executive Director Dixon Osburn said, “This decision marks the end of an 11-year quest for justice for those harmed by General Samantar and soldiers under his command. It is also a major victory for human rights since it preserves the Fourth Circuit’s opinion that egregious human rights abuses cannot be considered “official acts” shielded by sovereign immunity”.
CJA client Aziz Deria said, “I truly rejoice to know that Samantar cannot escape the pronouncement of the court of law. My late father, Mohamed Iid; my younger brother, Mustafa; and my cousin, Yusuf, were pulled from our family’s home and murdered under General Samantar’s orders just because of their clan. The Supreme Court’s decision today gives me hope that justice for all Somalis is possible.”
Full coverage from CJA website: http://cja.org/article.php?id=1547
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