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Federal judge awards $21 million in lawsuit against former Somalia PM

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Tuesday awarded $21 million [order, PDF] to seven Somalis in a lawsuit [case summary] against former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar [JURIST news archive]. The lawsuit, which started in 2004 and made it all the way to the US Supreme Court, alleges Samantar was responsible for the killing and torture of members of the Isaaq clan in Somalia throughout the 1980s under former dictator Siad Barre. The Somalis bringing the lawsuit, some of whom fled to the US and some of whom stayed in Somalia, were represented by the Center for Justice and Accountability [advocacy website]. They claim to have been subjected to torture or potential executions at the hands of the Barre regime and brought the lawsuit under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 [28 USC § 1350]. The judgement included $2 million in punitive damages and $1 million in compensatory damages to the individual plaintiffs. Samantar's lawyers say they will appeal the ruling [AP report]. The question of Samantar's immunity is still on appeal.

This is the latest step in a case that has lasted eight years and gone through several different court systems. In February Samantar said he would not contest the lawsuit [JURIST report]. Samantar continues to claim immunity even though his claim was denied by both the Eastern District Court last February and the Supreme Court in June 2010 [JURIST reports].

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