As the head of the Somali army’s Fifth Brigade in the 1980s, Colonel Yusuf Abdi Ali (nicknamed “Tukeh”) terrorized the Isaaq clan in the northwestern region of Somalia, known today as Somaliland. One of his victims, Farhan Warfaa, was nearly killed by Tukeh but miraculously survived. Decades later, CJA, on behalf of Warfaa, continues to fight to bring his torturer to justice in U.S. courts.
Early one morning in 1987, soldiers under Tukeh’s command arrested Farhan Warfaa and several of his neighbors in what is now Somaliland. Tukeh was one of the most ruthless commanders of the 20-year Siad Barré dictatorship. Under Tukeh’s supervision, Warfaa was repeatedly tortured and interrogated.
After three excruciating months, Tukeh personally interrogated Warfaa. He shot Warfaa five times at close range. Assuming Warfaa was dead, Tukeh ordered his soldiers to get rid of the body. Miraculously, Warfaa survived and was smuggled to safety. He was just 16 years old.
When Siad Barré was eventually overthrown in 1991, Tukeh fled to Canada and later became a permanent resident of the United States.
CJA filed suit on behalf of Warfaa in 2004, seeking to hold Tukeh responsible for torture, extrajudicial killing, and the systematic and widespread attack on civilians.
In 2007, the court administratively closed the case, pending determination of immunity issues raised in another case, Yousuf v. Samantar.
The case was reopened in 2011, only to be stayed a second time pending the Supreme Court’s decision in yet another case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.
After lengthy delays, the court finally reopened the case only to dismiss all of Warfaa’s mass atrocity claims – yet denying Tukeh immunity from suit. Both parties then appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In February 2016, the Fourth Circuit ruled that Tukeh is not immune from suit and affirmed that war criminals living in the United States must answer their victims in U.S. courts. Unfortunately, on separate grounds, the court affirmed the dismissal of Warfaa’s claims for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, CJA continues to support efforts to identify victims buried in mass graves throughout Somaliland, including those believed to contain the remains of people killed in mass executions Tukeh ordered.