By: Pamela Merchant
Somalilandsun -The Centre for Justice and Accountability- CJA Is pleased to report that a federal judge in Ohio has ordered former Somali Colonel Magan to pay $15 million in damages to CJA Client Professor Abukar Hassan Ahmed. Professor Ahmed was a constitutional law professor and human rights advocate who was arrested and tortured because he was an outspoken critic of the brutal Siad Barré Regime in Somalia.
A former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, Professor Ahmed has been seeking justice ever since his arrest 25 years ago. He tracked down his torturer, Colonel Abdi Aden Magan, in Ohio. Colonel Magan was the Chief of Somalia’s infamous National Security Service (NSS) Department of Investigations, a government agency created to suppress perceived political opposition to the Barré Regime.
In a 14 page decision, Judge Mark Abel details the horrific abuses that Professor Ahmed suffered at the hands of Colonel Magan and the NSS including his unlawful arrest, sham trial and torture. In assessing damages, Judge Abel is particularly eloquent on the importance of human rights in civil society:
It is no easy task to quantify damages for human rights abuses because basic human rights are the bare minimum freedoms from arbitrary state action that permit individuals and those they are in community with to congregate, work together to improve the lives of each other and others subject to the state’s authority, and use their talents, vigor and ideals to live flourishing lives as vital members of their community. When those basic rights are trammeled by the state’s brute force, the victim is stripped of his dignity and prevented from exercising those precious human and political rights. The loss is incommensurable. The victim’s trust that his country will always recognize his worth and protect him from cruel, arbitrary degradation and injury is crushed. Perhaps worse, the fragile faith judges, lawyers, police, military and government officials must have in the state’s commitment to human rights is undermined, if not destroyed, and their willingness-and courage-to protect those rights is undermined-given the frailties of our common human nature-perhaps irrevocably.
Because there is no criminal remedy available, the judge said that he issued the final award in order to “deter others from committing such acts and to provide redress.” We can only hope.
In other important news, Professor Ahmed has just been selected to receive the prestigious International Bar Association’s Annual Human Rights Award 2013 for his outstanding contributions to human rights and the rule of law. Previous honorees include imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights defender Abdolfattah Soltani and Colombian human rights defender Iván Velásquez Gómez. The award will be presented this fall in Boston. Needless to say, we are extremely honored to be able to work with Professor Ahmed in his quest for justice and delighted that he is receiving this important recognition.
In addition to congratulating Professor Ahmed and the dedicated CJA attorneys, we would like to thank the attorneys and legal staff at Latham & Watkins and Chadbourne & Parke for their passionate support of Professor Ahmed and his case as pro bono co-counsel.
For more information on the case, please click here.
Pamela Merchant is the Executive Director of The Centre for Justice and Accountability- CJA
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