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US court to hear Somali ex-minister torture case

By   /  September 30, 2009  /  6 Comments

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General Mohamed Ali samatar

General Mohamed Ali samatar

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will rule on whether a former Somali prime minister is protected by sovereign immunity from a lawsuit seeking to hold him responsible for torture and human rights abuses.

The justices agreed to review a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that allowed the lawsuit to proceed against Mohamed Ali Samatar, who served as Somalia’s defense minister in the 1980s and then as prime minister from 1987 to 1990.

The lawsuit, seeking financial damages from Samatar, was filed by a small group of Somalis who said they endured torture or other abuses in violation of international law by Somali soldiers or other government officials under Samatar’s general command. Some of the plaintiffs are naturalized U.S. citizens.

A U.S. federal judge ruled that Samatar, who now lives in Virginia, was entitled to immunity under a U.S. law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and dismissed the lawsuit.

But the appeals court disagreed and reinstated the lawsuit. It ruled that the law extended immunity only to foreign states and their agencies, not to individuals.

The appeals court also said the law does not apply to foreign officials who were already out of office when the lawsuit was filed against them.

Samatar’s attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that the law extended to individuals for acts taken in their official capacity.

The plaintiffs do not claim that Samatar 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.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case early next year, with a decision likely by June.

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

Source: Reuters

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  1. avatar Fatuma Bihi says:

    First, I vehemently object to the characterization of President Mohamed Siad Barre as a “Dictator”. Siad and Samantar and other members of the last Governmant of Somalia were true nationalists who dedicated their lives to the betterment of the Somali Nation. That this statement is a fact can be deduced by the fact that those who fought them have been waging war on the Somali people for the last 20-years , destroying in the process the infrastructure and setting Somalia back for 100-years.

    • avatar Liibaan Haldha says:

      that is true Samater and his former colleagues were not “dictators” history already judged. look those who came after him still busy killing people, destroying the country’s infrastructures and made confusing UN and Aid providers. those who are ruling the country, Somalia now by their own clans don’t care anything religion and law. Ali Samater and his colleagues deserved to honor but not to accuse them. Northern somali regions are not only one clan when the government was fight against grouped backed by Ethionpian Government many people from different clans were victims between them.

  2. avatar adna ahmed says:

    first, my best greeting to all Somali national movement(SNM).
    i would like to declare the above mentioned sister that Somali people in common has suffrered for deteriorate and tortured for no reason under the the government “dictator” Siad and Samtar.
    As Mr: Samtar himself mentioned for BBC English interview said” i was the higher commander and i gave to Somali soldiers the obtain to assault the northern Somali people.
    my sympathized for those who praise such government .

  3. avatar johnjames says:

    the USA shall be no place to hide for war criminals , the long arm of justice is finally catching those African nazis ,this is the genesis of what would be a long worldwide man hunt for the Samatar and their likes, regardless of their origine , they should start moving to a place faraway from the civilized nation and dark enough to hide but where we are now a global village.
    Samatar is the man whom under his direct command over 50000 people unarmed civilians have been slaughtered and entire cities indiscriminatly bombarded to groundlevel such kind of people do not deserve to be to America but they belong to jail.

  4. avatar dr hussain says:

    samatar was responsiple the death of 50 000 people…..he doesn’t deserve to live he should be kept in very small box and release after somaliland regconition and trialed in somaliland they probably hung him like saddam hussain,
    he is minority should not be considered after what he done.

  5. avatar Abdulhamid Haji Hussein says:

    Indeed no one wnews that general Samatar may involved ethnic cleaning during Bare rule in Somalia from Oct 21,1969 to December 1990. I frankly telling you that he may involve or he may not but we have no any thing that showing us he may involve or he may not involve. However i can’t ruleout thet he may knows what happened in during ethic cleaning.

    Abdulhamid Haji Hussein
    Bangkok, Thailand

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