Friday, November 12, 2004

US/Somalia: lawsuits filed against two former high-ranking Somalis

The two lawsuits claim that Mohamed Ali Samatar, a former defense minister and prime minister of Somalia, and Yusuf Abdi Ali, a former colonel who commanded a notorious Somali army battalion, bear responsibility for human rights violations committed during the military regime of the late Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre, who was deposed in 1991. The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday on behalf of eight Somali plaintiffs.

The lawsuits, filed by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and a Reston law firm, represent the latest effort by private groups to hold accountable alleged human rights violators who have found safe haven in the United States.

[...] Samatar, a resident of Fairfax County, came to the United States in the early 1990s after his wife was granted political asylum. Abdi Ali, known to Somalis by his nom de guerre, Tokeh ("the Crow"), received military training in the United States in 1986 and 1990 and sought refuge in Canada when the Siad Barre government collapsed. He landed in the United States after he was deported from Canada in 1992 because of his human rights record, and he eventually prevailed in a six-year legal battle with U.S. immigration. He now lives and works in Alexandria.

Samatar and Abdi Ali could not be reached for comment yesterday. In an interview in Canada before being deported, Abdi Ali denied that he committed human rights abuses. (more here)