Abukar Hassan AhmedClient: Ahmed v. Magan
Abukar Hassan Ahmed is a native of Somalia who is currently a naturalized citizen of the United Kingdom. Mr. Ahmed was recently awarded the 2013 International Bar Association Human Rights Award. Mr. Ahmed was a practicing attorney (a barrister before the Somali courts) as well as a law professor at Somali National University in the capital city of Mogadishu. He taught courses in constitutional law and international law. His curriculum included the protection of human rights contained in the Somali Constitution. Mr. Ahmed was outspoken about the Siad Barre military regime’s attacks on freedom of expression and widespread abuse of human rights. He felt it was his responsibility as a teacher and as a lawyer to speak candidly to his students about these abuses.
Mr. Ahmed was first detained by the National Security Service (NSS) in 1981 and imprisoned without charge until 1986. Ahmed became an Amnesty International (AI) “Prisoner of Conscience” and AI campaigned for his release. After his release in 1986, Mr. Ahmed returned to his law professor position at Somali National University, where he continued to teach his students about human rights protections. He also returned to his law practice and began representing clients accused of political offenses before the National Security Court.
On November 20, 1988, NSS officers under Colonel Magan’s command arrested Mr. Ahmed in central Mogadishu. Ahmed was carrying a copy of Amnesty International report Somalia: A Long-Term Human Rights Crisis, published in September 1988, which the NSS officers confiscated. Mr. Ahmed was taken to the NSS Department of Investigations Prison in the unventilated basement of NSS Headquarters in north Mogadishu, where he was held in solitary confinement in a small, windowless cell. His left wrist was tightly handcuffed to his right leg for twenty-four hours a day, except during interrogations. He was placed on a starvation diet of rancid bread, butter and tea once a day and slept on cold wet floors without mat or blanket. He was interrogated day and night by NSS officers who accused him of writing the Amnesty International report and threatened that if he did not confess, they would kill him.
On February 7, 1989, Mr. Ahmed was taken to Magan’s office, where the same NSS officers who interrogated him were also present. Magan now accused Ahmed of being a member of the United Somali Congress (USC), a group established in January, 1989, while Ahmed was already in NSS detention. Magan told Ahmed that if he did not confess to being a member of the USC, they would torture him and get him to confess through torture. Hours later, officers came to Ahmed’s cell, blindfolded, handcuffed, and brought him to interrogators. Although Mr. Ahmed was blindfolded, one side of the blindfold was tied loose enough for him to see. The NSS officers brutally tortured him while interrogating him. His hands were tied together with cloths and then handcuffed. His feet were similarly tied together with cloths and then handcuffed. He was forced to sit down. His legs were pushed back over his head, exposing his genitals. His testicles were squeezed with iron instruments, causing him excruciating pain. A five liter container of water, sand and small stones was forced into his mouth, cutting off his air supply. He fainted. When he regained consciousness, he was beaten. After the torture, he was taken back to his cell.
By the end of February 1989, Mr. Ahmed was transferred from the NSS Prison to Central Prison. During the transfer, the Duty Officer of the prison read to him that he was charged with a violation of Article 19 (Law N.54, 1970), Authoring Subversive Material, which carried the death penalty. This was the first time that he learned of any charge against him. One day before his trial, Ahmed received a notice of the trial hearing and learned that the charge against him had been reduced to a violation of Article 18 (Law N.54, 1970), Possession of Subversive Material, which carried a three-five year prison sentence or a fine of 15,000 Somali shillings.
On March 8, 1989, Mr. Ahmed was taken before the National Security Court (NSC). The trial lasted less than one hour. He was not provided an attorney to represent him. During the trial, Ahmed told the NSC that he had been tortured by NSS officers and that Magan had ordered his torture. The NSC convicted him and fined him 15,000 Somali Shillings. His friend paid the fine on his behalf and he was released.
Mr. Ahmed again returned to his law practice and his law professor position at Somali National University. After his release, NSS officers followed him wherever he went and questioned his students about him. NSS officers under Magan’s command also repeatedly went to Ahmed’s home when he was not there. Each time, his family was told that Magan wanted to see him and was questioned about where Ahmed was and what he was doing.
On July 13, 1989, on the same night that the NSS arrested several other prominent figures and government critics in Mogadishu, Magan and several NSS officers under his command again went to Mr. Ahmed’s home. Magan and his men waited all night and until noon the next day for Ahmed to return. Ahmed was away on business. When Mr. Ahmed returned to his home the following evening, his mother told him that Magan and his men had come for him. She urged him to hide. Mr. Ahmed immediately went into hiding at a friend’s home until fleeing Somalia in August, 1989.