Akin Gump Pro Bono Client Wins Landmark Victory, Awarded $21M in Torture Lawsuit

(Washington, D.C.)  On August 28, 2012, a seven-year legal battle that began as a complaint filed in district court in Virginia and wended its way to the U.S. Supreme Court concluded, as a U.S. federal judge awarded $21 million to seven plaintiffs in a case involving claims of torture and murder against Mohamed Ali Samantar, the former vice president, defense minister and prime minister of Somalia.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, in conjunction with the Center for Justice and Accountability, represented the plaintiffs pro bono in a case that was notable, first, for the fact that it is the first time that any Somali government official has been made accountable for the abuses committed under the Siad Barre regime that ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1991.

Further, this case set an important legal precedent, as the U.S. Supreme Court, having accepted the case for review of the 4th Circuit’s decision rejecting Samantar’s claim of immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, ruled unanimously against his claim, thereby establishing that foreign government officials who commit human rights abuses while in office are not entitled to FSIA immunity in U.S. court.

Steven Schulman, Akin Gump’s pro bono partner, said, “This is a remarkable result for our clients, who faced down one of the most powerful men in their country’s history and forced him to concede liability for his crime.  I cannot imagine a better use of our firm’s pro bono resources than to achieve justice for our clients and to honor the many victims of General Samantar’s brutal military.”

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 850 attorneys in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.


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