Ex-Head of Somalia Owes $21M for Brutal Regime

     (CN) – After conceding liability for overseeing mass killings and torture in Somalia, the nation’s former prime minister must pay $21 million, a federal judge ruled.
     Mohamed Ali Samantar, who now lives in Fairfax, Va., served as defense minister and prime minister after a military coup overthrew Somalia’s elected government in 1969. He was the top military leader in Somalia until Major General Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
     In a federal complaint, four native Somalis accused Samantar of supervising the military that tortured, killed or imprisoned them or their relatives in the 1980s.
     Each plaintiff belongs to the Isaaq clan, which allegedly faced particular oppression from the Barre regime.
     After the Supreme Court ruledthat Samantar was not immune from suit as a former head of state, he decided to concede liability rather than face a jury trial.
     On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema granted each plaintiff $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, a total judgment of $21 million.
     “This amount is intended to reflect the seriousness of Samantar’s uncontested conduct and to ease any burden on plaintiffs in having to bring this case, while also recognizing the substantial compensatory damages awarded and the lack of evidence that Samantar possesses profits from his wrongful conduct that should be disgorged,” the decision states. “The sum also takes into consideration Samantar’s financial condition, specifically his ongoing Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding.”
     She found that “Samantar’s subordinates in the Somali Armed Forces and affiliated intelligence and security agencies were committing human rights abuses; Samantar not only knew about this conduct and failed to take necessary and reasonable measure to prevent it, but he in fact ordered and affirmatively permitted such violations. The well-pleaded allegations and uncontested evidence submitted at trial also sufficiently establish that Samantar ‘substantial[ly] assist[ed]’ his subordinates with ‘the purpose of facilitating’ the acts alleged in the second amended complaint.” (Brackets in original.)
     One of the plaintiffs, Ahmed Gulaid, served in the Somali National Army for 20 years before military police arrested him and 62 other Isaaq officers in 1988, drove them into the countryside and shot them. Gulaid lost consciousness and awoke to find himself covered by the dead bodies of his fellow officers.
     Somali police arrested Buralle Mohamoud, another plaintiff, and his two brothers in 1984. The group was sentenced to death along with 40 other prisoners for allegedly assisting an Isaaq resistance movement. Mohamoud was separated from the group at the last minute and escaped execution.
     Bashe Yousuf, the third plaintiff, was arrested in 1981, then tortured, sentenced for treason and kept in solitary confinement in a dark cell for seven years.
     Yousuf testified: “I did not speak with anybody. … I was sometimes wondering if I still remember my, even my native language. … The worst torture you can go through is isolation. You turn into an animal.” (Ellipses in original.)
     In 1989, he was released without any explanation.
     Aziz Deria sued on behalf of his murdered father and brother, as well as the murdered brothers of Mohamoud,
     Deria testified that his father and brother are presumed dead after government soldiers abducted them from the family home in Hargeisa during a 1988 “indiscriminate … aerial and ground attack.”
     Brinkema stayed execution of the judgment pending resolution of Samantar’s bankruptcy proceedings.

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