Federal judge holds former Somalia colonel responsible for 1980s torture

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Tuesday ruled that a former Somali military colonel was responsible for the torture of a human rights advocate in the 1980s. Colonel Abdi Aden Magan did not present any evidence [AP report] to dispute allegations that he directed subordinates to carry out human rights abuses under the regime of former military dictator Mohammed Siad Barre [NYT profile]. Lawyer and human rights advocate Abukar Hassan Ahmed had alleged three months of torture under the orders of Col. Magan, who at the time served as investigations chief of the National Security Service of Somalia, dubbed the "Black SS" or the "Gestapo of Somalia" due to techniques used to gain confessions from detainees. The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [CJA materials] on behalf of Ahmed in 2010, when Magan was residing in Ohio. Initially Magan argued for dismissal [JURIST report] because the lawsuit was filed in the wrong county and too long after the alleged abuse occurred. After spending some time fighting the allegations Magan left the US for Kenya and has not responded to subsequent court motions. Judge George Smith will now hold a financial determination hearing where Ahmed can testify about the abuse he suffered, but since Magan has left the US it is uncertain whether Ahmed could ever actually receive any damages.

In August the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] awarded $21 million [JURIST report] to seven Somalis in separate CJA lawsuit [CJA materials] against former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar [JURIST news archive]. The lawsuit, which started in 2004 and made it to the US Supreme Court [JURIST report] in 2010, alleged Samantar was responsible for the killing and torture of members of the Isaaq clan in Somalia throughout the 1980s under former dictator Siad Barre. In April 2011 the Virginia court denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] the lawsuit against Samantar, whose lawyers had argued for dismissal because the statute of limitations had expired and because the courts should not interfere in political matters. That February a federal judge had ruled that Samantar was not entitled to legal immunity from civil lawsuits [JURIST report], following the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling 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.

 

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