The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to block a lawsuit against a former prime minister of Somalia over claims that he oversaw killings and torture in his home country.
The high court said it will allow lawsuits against Mohamed Ali Samantar to go forward despite his claims of immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. However, the court warned that the U.S. District Court will have to decide whether Samantar can access other claims of immunity that could stop the trial.
The court's decision could have broad foreign policy implications. Allowing lawsuits against former foreign officials living in the United States could increase the likelihood that U.S. officials would be sued in overseas courts. An increase in the number of U.S. lawsuits dealing with past actions in foreign countries could also affect the United States' current ties with those countries.
Samantar was defense minister and prime minister of Somalia in the 1980s and early 1990s under dictator Siad Barre.
He now lives in Virginia. He is being sued under the Torture Victim Protection Act by Somalis living in the United States who were subjected to persecution in the 1980s. They say Samantar was in charge of military forces who tortured, killed or detained them or members of their families.