Former army colonel found guilty, ordered to pay $500K to Somali villager whom he had tortured 31 years ago
Colonel Yusuf Abdi Ali, a former high-ranking Somalian military has been found guilty of torturing Somali herder Farhan Warfaa. Warfaa had traveled for 8,000 miles to come to Virginia to bring Ali to justice.
The guilty military man, also known as Colonel 'Tukeh', has been held responsible for torturing Warfaa back in 1987. He has been accused of shooting Warfaa, many times, at point-blank range and then leaving him to die after a supposed interrogation had been cut short by an insurgent attack.
The jury awarded Warfaa $500,000 in damages, including $100,000 in punitive damages. He was represented by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the law firm of DLA Piper LLP.
In a three-day long trial, the judge heard that Ali and his men had rounded up Warfaa and others from his village in 1987, which was then under Siad Barre’s decades-long military dictatorship and took them to the Military Headquarters of the Fifth Brigade of the Somali National Army. The evidence presented to the court included testimonies from eyewitnesses who were former officers of the Somali National Army and other survivors of Somali National Army abuses, as well as expert testimony from former U.S. Special Envoy to Somalia, Ambassador Robert Gosende and medical experts, Dr. Allen S. Keller and Professor Daryn Reicherter.
Ali, who is now a resident of Alexandria, denied torturing Warfaa. The court, however, explicitly rejected the allegation about the extrajudicial killing of Warfaa by Ali, even though he testified that it was Ali who had shot him. Joseph Peter Drennan, who was Ali's attorney said that the verdict shows that the jury did not buy parts of Warfaa's story and that his client was only responsible for the torture.
Ali's lawyer also said that this was a case that happened 31 years ago and in another land was "problematic". "This idea of universal jurisdiction, and American courts adjudicating issues like this that happened far away, and long ago, is very problematic," Drennan said. He also claimed that Ali did not have the money that Warfaa has been awarded since he lost his job as an Uber driver after it was reported that he had been driving for a while even when he was accused of torture and murder. Drennan also alleged that the real motive for the case is clan vengeance.
Warfaa said in a statement, "It has been a long journey seeking justice for what happened to me and to my community. Today’s verdict was a vindication not only for me, but also for many others in Somaliland who suffered under Col. Tukeh’s command. I hope today’s outcome contributes to our continued healing."
CJA’s lead counsel at trial, Kathy Roberts, said, “The evidence we developed through this case has confirmed the truth about crimes perpetrated by the Siad Barre regime against members of the Isaaq community during the Somali civil war. Our client Farhan’s strength and perseverance is a testament to all those who seek truth, justice and accountability.”
MEA World Wide had previously reported that Warfaa, now a village elder, had been taken captive as a part of the abolition measures against a militia group called Somali National Movement (SNM) during the Barre regime. Ali was the commander of the unit.
Warfaa, who was a teenager at the time, was taken in for questioning after a water tanker was stolen from the army. The questioning lasted for several months. In another session with Ali and his men, he was allegedly stripped and beaten and when the former colonel became enraged, he shot him. His body was allegedly ordered to be taken care of and buried. He was allegedly shot five times at point-blank range after a torture session in March 1988 - the last time he laid eyes on Ali.
However, he survived. His body exchanged for a bribe by his family and he lived to tell the tale. Warfaa's case was first filed in 2004 with the help of the CJA. The lawsuit had been delayed for nearly 15 years, mostly by legal debate over whether a foreign national could bring a lawsuit in the U.S. over alleged torture that happened in another country.
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