Human Rights Watch filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the case of Yousuf v. Samantar, which is now before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In the brief, Human Rights Watch argues that when Congress passed the Torture Victim Protection Act in 1991, it intended to allow survivors of torture to sue former officials of foreign governments in US courts, on the understanding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) would not bar such suits. The Virginia District Court’s decision to apply FSIA immunity to Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former Somali official, contradicts that intention and could permit other abusive governments to immunize the most heinous acts of their former officials. Human Rights Watch joined 19 other parties — including torture survivors, torture survivor support and recovery organizations, religious organizations, and human rights organizations — in arguing for the reversal of the District Court’s decision.
December 7, 2007