" ... The suit in U.S. District Court seeks unspecified damages from Magan, who served under Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre as head of a unit dubbed the 'Gestapo of Somalia' ... "
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS (AP) | Jun 13, 2010
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A lawsuit alleging that a former Somalia military colonel who lives in Ohio had ordered the detention and torture of a human rights advocate in Somalia in 1988 was filed in the wrong country and too long after the alleged abuse, according to a court filing.
Abdi Aden Magan, the former chief of the National Security Service of Somalia, also said he is immune from prosecution.
"So long as Magan acted within his official capacity and on behalf of the Somalian government, the conduct is immune from civil liability," according to Magan's filing in U.S. District Court in Columbus late Friday.
Magan, who has lived in Columbus since 2000, also said he faced his own ordeal in Somalia and had to flee after falling out of favor with the government. His two children were later killed by members of a rival clan in Somalia, Magan said.
In April, Abukar Hassan Ahmed sued Magan over the torture allegations in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus.
Ahmed, a lawyer now retired in London, says the three months of torture he endured make it painful for him to sit and injured his bladder to the point that he is incontinent.
The suit in U.S. District Court seeks unspecified damages from Magan, who served under Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre as head of a unit dubbed the "Gestapo of Somalia," according to the lawsuit.
Ahmed's claim was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, an 18th-century law that can allow damages for violations of international law, and the Torture Victims Protection Act that permits non-citizens to seek damages for torture and illegal killings abroad if the accused live in or have assets in the U.S.
Earlier this month, in a decision that could affect Magan's case, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a lawsuit against a former prime minister of Somalia over claims that he oversaw killings and torture in his home country.
The high court said June 1 it will allow lawsuits against Mohamed Ali Samantar to go forward despite his claims of immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
Without referring to that ruling, Magan cited common law and other court cases to argue he could not be sued in the United States for actions he took as a government official.
The lawsuit also said statutes of limitations have expired for filing such a lawsuit, and the passage of time will make it difficult to proceed because of lost paperwork and witnesses' fading memories.
Somalia, an impoverished East African nation of about 10 million people, has not had a functioning government for more than a decade, although the U.S. is backing a transitional government there.
Magan also said the lawsuit could have been brought in Somaliland, an independent country in northern Somalia, or Kenya, any time after Magan fled to Kenya for his own safety in 1991.
"In Kenya I lived openly," Magan said in an attached court filing. "If anyone wanted to find me it would not have been hard to do."