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CJA Statement On The Dismissal Of The Lawsuit Against Ali Samantar
May 7, 2007
Alexandria, Virginia, USA, April 27, 2007 - The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the human rights lawsuit filed against former Somali General Mohamed Ali Samantar for his role in torture, extrajudicial killing, war crimes and other abuses committed against the civilian population of Somalia in the 1980s. The plaintiffs in this case, represented by San Francisco-based human rights organization Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) and pro bono co-counsel from Cooley Godward Kronish LLP in Reston, Virginia, will appeal the decision. General Samantar left Somali in 1991 and currently resides in Fairfax, Virginia.
The judge ruled from the bench and will issue a written opinion at a later date. She stated that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) prevents the plaintiffs in this case, who are victims of torture and other abuses, from bringing a case in the US against a former foreign official such as General Samantar. The judge's ruling did not address the merits of the case which alleges that General Samantar had command responsibility for torture, killing and other abuses committed by his troops. The judge did address the severity of the claims against General Samantar when she stated, "And I want to make sure it's understood clearly that the allegations are obviously very serious. The kind of conduct that is described in the complaint is conduct that civilized societies ought not to tolerate."
Pamela Merchant, Executive Director of CJA stated, "While General Samantar is living in Northern Virginia and enjoying impunity, the people who suffered under his military command still wait their opportunity for accountability. We are disappointed with the court's ruling, but we are confident that we will prevail on appeal."
CJA has been successful in several other suits for similar abuses committed by high-ranking former officials from a number of countries. The case against General Samantar, like these other cases, was brought under the Alien Tort Statue (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).
The case against General Samantar details the torture and mass-killings of the Somali people by members of the military under Samantar's command. During the period of brutal military dictatorship of the 1980s, General Samantar held the top military position in the country. The stories of survival and loss of CJA's clients and plaintiffs in this case represent a small sampling of the abuses committed by General Samantar's army:
While a setback, this recent development does not mark an end to the on-going commitment to justice shared by all those who suffered under General Samantar's command. CJA commends their courage and dedication, and will honor their commitment through continued zealous advocacy for accountability.
CJA is a San Francisco-based human rights organization that works to end impunity by bringing to justice perpetrators of human rights abuses, especially those who live in or visit the United States. Cooley Godward Kronish LLP serves pro bono co-counsel with CJA in the representation of Somali survivors of torture and other human rights abuses.
For more information and background on the case, please visit www.cja.org.
Center for Justice and Accountability
Phone: 415-544-0444 Web:
Contacts: Center for Justice & Accountability
Moira Feeney, Staff Attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org, (415) 544-0444 x302