Friday, May 14, 2010

Samantar v. Yousuf

Continuing on the theme of prisons from the last post, I read about a very interesting legal case, referred to as Samantar v. Yousuf, that is pending at the US Supreme Court that has to do with human rights abuses. The case was argued in early March and a decision is expected within the next few weeks.

The case was brought to court by Somali victims (the "respondents") of torture during the Barre regime from the 1980s. The respondents are attempting to bring to justice a former defence and prime minister of Somalia by the name of Mohamed Ali Samantar (the "petitioner") who now lives in the US. What the US Supreme Court is deciding now is whether or not the petitioner has immunity from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the respondents, then Mr. Samantar can be taken to court to face justice.

From what I've read about the case, it was not convincingly argued by either side. But, to its credit, the Obama Administration has sided with the respondents, and that may help sway the court's opinion towards a loose interpretation of the FSIA. If this comes to fruition, then that will send a strong message to all human right abusers, like officials of the Woyane regime, that they may be held accountable to what they are doing to political prisoners as officials of the Ethiopian state. I am sure there are also some officials of the Derg regime who are nervously watching the Supreme Court's decision on this case.

Update (June 1st): US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that "the respondents" can sue the ex-Somali prime minister. Here is the decision.

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