Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ex-Somali official Mohamed Ali Samantar may be sued in U.S., Supreme Court rules
By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer - Wednesday, June 2, 2010

[UPDATE: June 28, 2010: Ruling burdens State Dept. Samantar held foreign officials are not immune from human rights suits, so State will have to decide whether to assert immunity and will be subject to lobbying; by John B. Bellinger III]

A group of Somalis who allege torture and killings by the former government of their homeland may pursue their lawsuit against a former prime minister now living in Fairfax County, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The justices ruled unanimously that a federal law that protects foreign governments from lawsuits filed in the United States does not cover individuals such as Mohamed Ali Samantar, who was defense minister and prime minister in the 1980s and early 1990s in the now-ousted government of Mohamed Siad Barre.

While Samantar's interpretation of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act is "literally possible," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court, a close reading "supports the view of respondents and the United States that the Act does not address an official's claim to immunity."

The court warned that its decision was narrow and that Samantar might have other legal claims of immunity when a district court reconsiders the suit. "Whether petitioner [Samantar] may be entitled to immunity under common law, and whether he may have other valid defenses to the grave charges against him, are matters to be addressed" by lower courts, Stevens wrote.

More... (also see this previous ATS Today post)