[JURIST] Former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar on Thursday accepted legal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website]. The civil suit [case summary] was brought by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) [advocacy website] in 2004 against Samantar, who had been living in Washington, DC, for more than 15 years, on behalf of five Somalis under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 [28 USC § 1350 text]. The plaintiff Somalis had been granted asylum in the US after being imprisoned and tortured while Samantar was in office under Dictator Siad Barre. Samantar said he will not contest his legal responsibility but made clear that by doing this he is not admitting guilt. The CJA said this is the first time [CJA press release] anyone will be held legally responsible for the events that occurred during Barre’s regime.
Samantar appealed his case multiple times, claiming immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) [28 US Chapter 97 text] and other common law defenses. Last year, the district court ruled that no immunity privileges under any of theses laws applied. The case made it to the US Supreme Court [official website] in 2010, which decided that the FSIA did not extend immunities to foreign leaders in civil cases. This ruling overturned the district court’s 2007 decision to dismiss the case on grounds that the FSIA granted Samantar immunity.