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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Mohamed Ali Samantar
Bashe Abdi Yousuf, et al.
(for the petitioner)
(for the respondents)
(Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

Natives of Somalia filed suit against Mohamed Ali Samantar in a Virginia federal district court under the Torture Victim Protection Act ("TVPA") and the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"). Plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Samantar committed torture and other human rights violations while he commanded Somali government agents under the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre. The district court dismissed the case, holding that Mr. Samantar was immune to suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA").

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the FSIA did not render Mr. Samantar immune to suit. The court reasoned that the FSIA does not apply to foreign government officials. The court further reasoned that even if the FSIA does apply to foreign government officials, it does not apply to former foreign government officials.


1) Does a foreign state's FSIA immunity from suit extend to an individual acting in his official capacity on behalf of the foreign state?

2) Does an individual who is no longer a government official of a foreign state at the time suit is filed retain FSIA immunity for acts taken in that individual's former capacity as a government official acting on behalf of a foreign state?

Decision: 9 votes for Yousuf, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976

No. No. The Supreme Court held that the FSIA does not govern Mr. Samantar's claim of immunity. With Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority, the Court reasoned that there is nothing to suggest that "foreign state" within the FSIA should be read to include an official acting on behalf of that state. The Court further reasoned that the FSIA's legislative history did not indicate that Congress intended to codify official immunity within the FSIA.

Justices Samuel A. Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin G. Scalia, writing in separate opinions, noted that the legislative history of the FSIA should not have been evaluated in reaching the Court's conclusion.

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SAMANTAR v. YOUSUF . The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
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