At the start of its new Term this month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in Case No. 08-1555, Samantar v. Yousuf. The justices agreed to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that allowed the lawsuit to proceed against Mohamed Ali Samantar, who served as Somalia's defense minister in the 1980s and then as prime minister from 1987 to 1990.
The lawsuit, seeking financial damages from Samantar, was filed by a small group of Somalis who said they endured torture or other abuses in violation of international law by Somali soldiers or other government officials under Samantar's general command. Some of the plaintiffs are naturalized U.S. citizens. A U.S. federal judge ruled that Samantar, who now lives in Virginia, was entitled to immunity under a U.S. law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and dismissed the lawsuit. But the appeals court disagreed and reinstated the lawsuit. It ruled that the law extended immunity only to foreign states and their agencies, not to individuals.
Track the case here on SCOTUSblog.