BY REGINA GARCIA CANO
COLUMBUS — A former Somali military colonel who left the US while facing civil claims that he tortured a human rights advocate was ordered by a judge on Tuesday to pay $15m in damages.
Federal Judge Mark Abel awarded the compensation to Abukar Hassan Ahmed, who in a 2010 lawsuit said he endured months of torture in the 1980s during interrogations in Somalia.
A judge had previously ruled that the former colonel, Abdi Aden Magan, was responsible for the torture.
Mr Ahmed filed the lawsuit in April 2010, stating that Mr Magan oversaw his detention and torture in Somalia in 1988. Mr Ahmed said that the three months of torture make it painful for him to sit and injured his bladder and he is now incontinent.
Mr Ahmed said the torture occurred when Mr 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 its techniques used to gain confessions from detainees.
One of Mr Ahmed’s lawyers, Christina Hioureas, on Tuesday said the judge’s ruling sends a message that the US will not be a “safe harbour for those who commit human rights abuses”.
She said that properties owned by Mr Magan could be seized to cover the $15m.
Mr Ahmed was a professor at the Somalia International University and a lawyer defending political dissidents when he was jailed and tortured. In 2010, Mr Ahmed discovered through a search on Google that Mr Magan was living in the US.
Mr Magan lived for years in Ohio. He initially fought the lawsuit, brought by the San Francisco-based Centre for Justice and Accountability, but stopped participating last year and now lives in Kenya.
Court documents list Mr Magan as representing himself.
He had argued that the lawsuit was filed in the wrong country and too long after the time Mr Ahmed said the abuse happened. He also had said he faced his own ordeal in Somalia and fled after falling out of favour with the government.
In a 2011 filing, the US department of state said Mr Magan should not be allowed to claim immunity. A legal adviser for the department, Harold Hongju Koh, wrote that Mr Magan had been a resident of the US since 2000.
Mr Koh said, “taking into account the relevant principles of customary international law, and considering the impact of this matter on US foreign policy, the Department of State has determined defendant Magan does not enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts.”