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Yousuf v. Samantar: defending human rights through extraterritorial litigation, Room 90

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April 25, 2012 12:45pm - 2:00pm

Room 90
Filed in 2004, this case charges Somalia’s former Minister of Defense, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Commander of the Armed Forces, General Mohamed Ali Samantar with egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by subordinates acting under his direct authority. The four plaintiffs in this case represented a cross-section of Somali society, from a rural goat herder to prominent businessmen; they were united by three common threads―they and their families were all members of the Isaaq clan; they all suffered brutal treatment at the hands of General Samantar's armed forces; and they all steadfastly believed that they could achieve justice in a U.S. courtroom. On February 23, 2012, after aggressively defending the case for more than seven years, litigating it to the U.S. Supreme Court and back, General appeared in a federal court in Virginia and did something that no high ranking person from the former military dictatorship of Siad Barre has ever done -- he accepted liability for torture, extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other human rights abuses committed against the civilian population of Somalia during the 1980s. This is the first time that anyone has been held to account anywhere in the world for atrocities committed by General Samantar and the military dictatorship that ruled Somalia for over 20 years. Kathy Roberts is a Staff Attorney at the Center for Justice & Accountability. With a background in civil litigation, civil rights, and social theory, her work focuses on investigating and litigating impact cases on behalf of survivors of torture and other severe human rights abuses. She led CJA’s trial team in the Yousuf v. Samantar case in the Eastern District of Virginia last February. In addition, Ms. Roberts teaches international human rights law part-time at the University of San Francisco and serves on the Boards of Trustees for the Playwrights Foundation and Just Theater. She received her BA with honors from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1992, her PhD in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2001, and her JD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004.