|UND law professor writes human rights brief for U.S. Supreme Court|
UND Law professor Gregory S. Gordon filed a “friend of the court” brief with the United States Supreme Court in a case against a former Somali prime minister accused of torture. He is the first UND law professor to write such a brief—dubbed “amicus curiae” in legal parlance—for the U.S. Supreme Court. Other amicus brief authors in the high-profile case include professors from Harvard Law School and Senator Arlen Spector.
“This is an incredible honor – especially in such a significant case," said Gordon, a well-known human rights scholar and former deputy team leader at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Gordon is director of the UND Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies and teaches courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, international law and international human rights law.
Gordon was asked to draft the brief on behalf of Holocaust and Darfur genocide survivors by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, a non-profit international human rights organization representing victims of grave human rights abuses committed overseas. CJA brings cases against the perpetrators in U.S. courts and has previously sued other high-profile violators, including former Salvadoran Minister of Defense Jose Guillermo Garcia and former Indonesian General Johny Lumintang.
“The issue before the Supreme Court in this case is whether the former Somali prime minister—Mohamed Ali Samantar—is immune from civil suit in the United States for human rights abuses committed in Somalia during the 1980s,” Gordon said. Samantar argues that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) applies not only to government entities themselves but also to individuals who work on behalf of those governments.
"The text itself of the FSIA and subsequent enactment of the Torture Victim Protection Act, among other things, reveal the serious flaws in Samantar's argument," Gordon said. "Our brief gives the Supreme Court greater context by focusing on the historical and modern international precedents rejecting the sovereign immunity defense for gross human rights violations.”
The Supreme Court agreed late last year to review this matter—the first case ever filed addressing human rights abuses committed in Somalia during the brutal Siad Barre regime.
“No one has ever been held legally responsible for the abuses committed by the military government against the civilian population of Somalia during that horrible time,” Gordon said. "There must be accountability."
Gordon's brief — written in partnership with the law firm of Covington & Burling — focuses on the historic judgments at the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, as well as developing jurisprudence from Darfur, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia.
"Those decisions make clear that perpetrators who use the state to commit atrocities may not hide behind that very entity to evade justice," Gordon said. "At the time the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act became law, Congress was well aware that the Nuremberg precedent, which the United States was instrumental in shaping, rejected the sovereign immunity defense for gross human rights violations."
The case will be argued on March 3 before the U.S. Supreme Court. Gordon plans to be at the Supreme Court with the CJA team for oral argument on March 3.
-- Juan Pedraza, Writer/Editor, University Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 777-6571