Samantar Case: $21 Million Judgment in Favor of CJA Clients

On August 28, 2012, U.S. Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema
awarded $21 million in compensatory and punitive damages against former Somali
General Mohamed Ali Samantar. In a
hearing before Judge Brinkema on February 23, 2012, General Samantar accepted
liability and responsibility for damages for torture, extrajudicial killing,
war crimes and other human rights abuses committed against the civilian
population of Somalia during the brutal Siad Barre regime, the military
dictatorship that ruled that country from 1969 to 1991. This judgment marks the first time that any
Somali government official has been held accountable for the atrocities
perpetrated under that regime, and it draws to an end a seven-year quest in
U.S. courts for justice for those harmed by General Samantar and soldiers under
his command. CJA released the following
statement in response to the Judge’s ruling:

“Our clients have always made it clear that this case was
not about money damages – it was about justice,” said Kathy Roberts, CJA staff
attorney. “There is no amount of money
that could adequately compensate them for what they suffered, or that could
compensate the thousands of innocent people who suffered or died under the Siad
Barre regime, but the court’s ruling today sends a message to victims and
perpetrators alike that the United States will not provide a safe haven to war
criminals. Our clients have waited a long time for this day. ”

“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 crimes,” said Steven Schulman, a partner at Akin Gump
Strauss Hauer & Feld who manages the firm’s pro bono practice. “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.”