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Abukar H. Ahmed v. Abdi Aden Magan

Court United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, United States
Case number 2:10-cv-00342
Decision title Stipulated Revised Pretrial Order
Decision date 10 January 2011
  • Abukar H. Ahmed
  • Abdi Aden Magan
Categories Torture
Keywords Arbitrary detention; command responsibility; torture; cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment; Somalia
Other countries involved
  • Somalia
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Colonel Abdi Aden Magan, the defendant, was a member of the Marehan sub-clan of the Darod clan and held high positions (as Colonel and Chief) at the National Security Service (NSS) of Somalia. The plaintiff, Abukar Hassan Ahmed, was a human rights attorney and law professor at the Somali National University. He was detained at the NSS for approximately three months. During his detention, he suffered severe physical and psychological injuries.  Ahmed claimed that, as a Chief of NSS Investigations, Colonel Magan was responsible for ordering and participating in his interrogation and torture.

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Procedural history

On 21 April 2010, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) filed a complaint against Colonel Abdi Aden Magan, former Chief of the Department of Investigations of the Somali NSS during the military dictatorship of Siad Barré, on behalf of former law professor and human rights attorney Abukar Hassan Ahmed, who suffered brutal torture under Colonel Magan’s orders.

The defence filed a motion to dismiss on 11 June 2010.  The plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss on 6 July 2010. 

A preliminary pretrial was held on 24 June 2010. Counsel for both parties appeared. The Court issued a preliminary pretrial order. However, the parties requested revision of the preliminary pretrial order.

On 6 December 2010, the judge filed an order inviting the United States Department of State to provide its views before 31 January 2011 as to whether Magan was entitled to common law immunity. 

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Related developments

On 15 March 2011, the United States submitted a statement of interest conveying the Department of State’s determination that Magan was not immune from suit. The Department of State found that Magan “is a former official of a state with no currently recognized government to request immunity on his behalf, including by expressing a position on whether the acts in question were taken in an official capacity” (p. 7). Moreover, the executive branch held that it was “appropriate in the circumstances here to give effect to the proposition that U.S. residents like [Defendant] who enjoy the protections of U.S. law ordinarily should be subject to the jurisdiction of our courts.” (p. 7).

On 7 November 2011, the District Court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint brought by the CJA on behalf of Ahmed.  The motion to dismiss was converted into a summary judgment motion and it was held that the case was filed timely and that there were no remedies available elsewhere. As a result, Magan was precluded from raising those defences. 

On 6 December 2011, Magan filed an answer to the complaint.

On 10 April 2012, in defiance of a court order, Magan failed to appear for his deposition.

The District Court granted the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on 20 November 2012 and found Magan guilty of torture and arbitrary detention. It was the first judgment ever in a court of law to hold a member of the NSS accountable for human rights violations committed under the brutal Barré regime.

On 2 October 2013, the District Court awarded Ahmed $5,000,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000,000 in punitive damages.

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Legally relevant facts

In October 1969, the Somali Armed Forces, led by Major General Mohamed Siad Barré, brought down the government of Somalia. The regime created the NSS in order to suppress and punish opposition to the Siad Barré dictatorship. During the 1970s and 1980s, the NSS committed widespread crimes (extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arbitrary and prolonged detention) against suspected opponents of the military regime.

On 20 November 1988, Ahmed was taken into detention at the NSS Department of Investigations Prison, where he was interrogated and tortured for approximately three months. He suffered both severe physical and psychological injuries as a result of his detention and torture.

Magan was a member of the Marehan sub-clan of the Darod clan, the same sub-clan of which Major General Mohamed Siad Barré, who ruled Somalia from 1969 until 1991, was a member. From 1988 to 1990, Magan held the rank of Colonel and served as Chief of the NSS Department of Investigations - National Level at NSS Headquarters in Mogadishu, Somalia. Magan was accused on the basis of command responsibility and personal responsibility for torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and arbitrary detention. The civil action was brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 (Title 28 U.S. Code, Section 1350)

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 2007, United States:

  • Rule 26(a) - Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery
  • Rule 26(e)(2) - Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery
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Court's holding and analysis

The District Court for the Southern District of Ohio dealt with procedural issues in its stipulated revised pretrial order. The Court held that parties’ disclosures should be completed on or before 25 June 2010 (p. 1), and, furthermore, that experts disclosures should be completed no later than30 March 2011 and responsive experts’ disclosures no later than 2 May 2011 (p. 3).

The Court further directed thepartiesto review their responses to written discovery on or before 5 May 2011 (p. 3).

The Court further directed plaintiff’s counsel to quarterly report to defence counsel the number of hours of legal services rendered and the rate(s) at which those services are billed (p. 4).

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

Court of Appeals for the Fourth District (United States), Bashe Abdi Yousuf et al. v. Mohamed Ali Samantar, Case No. 11-1479, Memorandum Opinion, 2 November 2012.

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Additional materials

‘Ahmed v. Magan – Torture of Human Rights Defenders in Somalia Under the Siad Barre Regime’, The Center for Justice and Accountability.

M. Ferenchik, ‘City man liable in torture lawsuit’, The Columbus Dispatch, 21 November 2012.

CJA, ‘Former Somali National Security Service Chief Found Liable for Torture’, Modern Ghana, 23 November 2012.

‘Federal Court Awards $15 Million in Damages to CJA Client for Torture’, CJA, 20 August 2013.

K. L. Gray, ‘$15 million awarded to Somali torture victim’, The Columbus Dispatch, 21 August 2013.