Somali torture victim who sued former US resident relieved after winning day in court
Torture victim Abukar Hassan Ahmed
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Torture victim Abukar Hassan Ahmed was living in
London when he decided several years ago to search again for the man he
says crippled him during interrogations in Somalia in the 1980s.
It took just a half-hour Internet search in 2005 to locate the
former government official then living in Ohio. Ahmed finally got the
chance to tell his story in court last week after a federal judge ruled
in his favor in a lawsuit against the official, Abdi Aden Magan.
“Justice is universal,” Ahmed told The Associated Press after
the hearing. Those “who try to torture a human being will be brought to
justice anywhere he is. That is my message.”
Ahmed, a former human
rights advocate in Somalia, alleged in a 2010 lawsuit that the beatings
he endured at Magan’s direction make it painful for him to sit and
injured his bladder to the point that he is incontinent. He is seeking
more than $12 million in damages, though he’s unlikely to ever see the
money. Magan is believed to be living in Kenya, where even if he had the
funds, he would be out of reach of U.S. courts.
Ahmed says the
torture occurred when Magan served as investigations chief of the
National Security Service of Somalia, a force dubbed the “Black SS” or
the “Gestapo of Somalia” because of techniques used to gain confessions
Magan, who lived for several years in Columbus,
didn’t present any evidence to dispute the allegations that he directed
subordinates in carrying out human rights abuses under the regime of
former dictator Siad Barre, federal judge George Smith ruled in
Magan declined to comment to the AP when the lawsuit was
first filed by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and
Accountability, which has brought a number of similar lawsuits against
overseas government officials accused of torture.
Magan fought the allegations in court filings for a while but stopped responding to additional court motions last year.
former Columbus attorney said Tuesday that Magan was caring for his
sick mother in Kenya. Court documents list Magan as representing
himself. An email requesting comment sent to the address listed for
Magan on the court docket bounced back.
Initially, Magan argued
that the lawsuit was filed in the wrong country and too long after the
alleged abuse. He also said he was immune from prosecution as long as he
was acting within his official capacity and on behalf of the
The fact that he stopped fighting the case doesn’t
outweigh the due process he received, said Kathy Roberts, a Center for
Justice and Accountability staff attorney.
“When you think about
the hundreds and thousands of Somalis who were denied due process under
his command and under his rule, then it seems incredibly fair in this
case,” she said. “He just simply realized he was going to lose and
preferred to lose in absentia.”
Ahmed, 67, now legal adviser to the president of Somalia, divides his time between London and Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
year, a federal judge in Virginia ordered the former prime minister of
Somalia, Mohamed Ali Samantar, to pay $21 million in compensatory and
punitive damages to several members of the minority Isaaq clan, who said
they suffered brutal repression — including torture and mass killings —
under the Barre regime.
Even though Magan has no money, “these
types of suits are important for the victims who are able to have their
day in court, tell their story, and have an authority recognize their
suffering,” Michael Scharf, a professor of international law at Case
Western University in Cleveland, said in an email.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.