Update: June 2, 2010: In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not protect foreign officials from prosecution in U.S. courts. More >>
, NY, December 8, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged the U.S. Supreme Court to exercise caution when ruling on whether victims of torture, now living in the U.S., may sue their torturer in an American court.
In Samantar v. Bashe Abdi Yousuf, et al., a group of Somalis are seeking retribution for the alleged torture they suffered at the hands of soldiers under the command of a former Somali government official. The government official, a former prime minister, is claiming immunity under a United States law – the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
"Victims of torture or genocide should unquestionably have access to U.S. courts to pursue justice against their oppressors," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "We must be cautious, however, that such access does not translate into an open invitation to abuse our court system for political purposes. The Supreme Court must ensure that suits of this nature are judged on their individual merit, while retaining safeguards designed to prevent political manipulation."
In an amicus brief filed with the high court, the League argues that the norms of international law appropriately prevent U.S. courts from providing immunity to officials of foreign countries who are accused of acts of torture, genocide and other crimes against humanity. At the same time, the brief asks the Court not to curtail existing doctrines and principles that serve to prevent such suits from becoming instruments of international politics.
ADL's friend-of-the-court brief, authored by Proskauer Rose LLP, is available here.