Somali man Farhan Warfaa travels 8,000 miles to Virginia to testify against former army colonel who allegedly tortured him
32 years after being allegedly tortured and almost killed, Farhan Warfaa, a Somalian village elder is set to testify in a Virginia court against his alleged perpetrator Yusuf Abdi Ali, a former military commander in the Somali army. Warfaa undertook a journey of 8,000 miles to a Virginia courtroom to confront the former army man. The case was brought forth on behalf of Warfaa by California's Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) in 2004.
"He is hoping to achieve some measure of accountability for the abuses that he alleges he and others have suffered," CJA legal director Carmen Cheung told The Guardian. "Even though these crimes took place a long time ago, even though a Virginia courtroom seems very far away from where these acts took place, it is in some ways the only forum," Cheung said.
Warfaa said that he was tortured by the former army man after being kidnapped by his soldiers in 1987 as a part of the abolition measures against a militia group called Somali National Movement (SNM) during the Barre regime. The group, the publication reports, was working on defending the Isaaq clan against a fifth brigade. Ali was the commander of the unit.
Ali, 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.
"The case is an important one not just for those people from Somaliland but also for us as Americans. What gives me hope is that this case is going forward in an American federal district court willing to allow a US jury to listen to these claims and make an adjudication," Cheung further said.
As for the accused, he fled to Canada after the war was over and then was deported to the United States after the knowledge of war crimes resurfaced, after the fall of the regime. He then moved to Virginia. According to recent CNN reports, he had been working as a Uber and Lyft driver. "I do this full time," Ali told the reporters who were working undercover, adding that he liked working on the weekends because "that's where the money is." As for the background check, he revealed that it had been very easy. "They just want your background check, that's it," said Ali. "If you apply tonight maybe after two days it will come, you know, everything."
Judge Leonie Brinkema will be hearing the Warfaa case. He is the same judge that slapped the $21m judgment against the former Somali prime minister General Mohammed Ali Samantar for human rights crimes in 2012.
"This is not just a case to me, it’s a part of my life I will never forget and I want to see those responsible realize what they have done,” Warfaa had told the publication back in 2004. "They may have forgotten but myself and others like me will never be able to. I want to see justice and I want my kids to learn that nobody is above the law and every action has a consequence, whether in this life or the afterlife."
If you have any news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514