Supreme Court Preserves Decision in Favor of Akin Gump Pro Bono Clients in Case Against Former Somali Warlord

(Washington, D.C.) – The U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal court judgment in favor of four Somali citizens, all Akin Gump pro bono clients, who won $21 million in compensatory and punitive damages for torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses committed by former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Mohamed Ali Samantar.

Samantar, in the course of a 2012 default judgment, accepted liability and responsibility for damages for crimes committed against the civilian population of Somalia during the brutal Siad Barré regime, the military dictatorship that ruled that country from 1969 to 1991. After the collapse of the dictatorship, Samantar fled Somalia and ultimately settled in Virginia, where he has lived openly for the past 18 years.

A federal district court ruled against Samantar after lawyers from Akin Gump and its co-counsel, the Center for Justice and Accountability, presented evidence demonstrating the grievous injuries he wrought and the malicious intent with which he committed his crimes. Samantar has continued to assert immunity for acts he says were taken in his official capacity. After Akin Gump successfully convinced the Supreme Court to reject his previous claim of statutory immunity in 2010, the court of appeals rejected Samantar’s latest iteration of that argument in a landmark human rights decision in 2012.

“This is a bittersweet moment for all those who lost relatives to the brutal regime run by Mohamed Al Samantar,” said Steven H. Schulman, Akin Gump’s pro bono partner, who helped lead the multiyear litigation. “Nothing will bring back the people who were taken from them, but today’s ruling shows that justice can and will prevail in instances such as this. I applaud this ruling by the Supreme Court and am very proud of the collaborative effort put forward by our team at Akin Gump and lawyers from the Center for Justice and Accountability.”

The Akin Gump team included partner Pratik Shah, co-head of the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, and counsel James Tysse, who successfully argued the prior appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. To learn more about Akin Gump’s involvement in this case, click here.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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