U.S. State Dept. Rejects Request from Nigerian Government to Support Its Sovereign Immunity Defense in ATS and TVPA Case

Ten plaintiffs from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have filed a federal lawsuit against 16 Nigerian officials for their complicity in the alleged extrajudicial killings of hundreds of its members who protested in the wake of arrest and detention of their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, in 2016.

The lawsuit is grounded on the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act.   Both laws allow U.S. courts to assert long-arm jurisdiction beyond America’s borders.

The defendants have moved to dismiss the suit based on the act of state doctrine, lack of jurisdiction and sovereign immunity.  In opposition, the plaintiffs have noted that the U.S. State Department rejected a request from the Nigerian government to intervene in the action and to recognize the defendants’ claims of sovereign immunity.

The case — John Doe, et al v. Tukur Yusuf Buratai et al, No. 17-Civ-01033 (ESH) —  is pending before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.


Man Sued in U.S. Court for Allegedly Leading Massacre that Killed 600 in Liberia in 1990

A federal lawsuit filed today under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) accuses Moses W. Thomas — who allegedly was a commander of a specialized unit in the Liberian military — of directing an assault on St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in the Liberian capital of Monrovia in July 1990, during Liberia’s first civil war.  The assault killed approximately 600 unarmed men, women and children.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of four of the church massacre’s survivors.  The suit does not identify the four plaintiffs, all Liberian citizens still residing there, because they fear retribution.  The suit alleges that Thomas knew the church was a shelter for civilians, and that he told dozens of soldiers that “their mission was to kill all the people in the Lutheran Church compound regardless of whether or not they were rebels.”

According to the lawsuit, Thomas fled Liberia and entered the U.S. in 2002, where he applied for immigration status under a program meant to assist victims of war crimes.  He now lives in suburban Philadelphia.

The name of the case is Jane W., et al. v. Moses W. Thomas, 18-Civ-569 (PBT) (E.D.Pa).

Germany Finally Appears in Case Based on Colonial-Era Genocide in Namibia … And Promptly Moves to Dismiss

Between 1904 and 1907, the German Empire engaged in a campaign of racial extermination in German South West Africa, which today is the Republic of Namibia.  Upwards of100,000 Herero people and 10,000 Nama people were exterminated by the Germans.  It is considered the first genocide of the 20th century.

In early 2017, members of the Herero and Nama filed a class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Germany under the Alien Tort Statute, asserting that German colonial troops were responsible for the deaths, as well as for the taking and expropriation of Herero and Nama lands and other property without compensation, in violation of international law.  The name of the case is Rukoro, et al. v. Federal Republic of Germany.

The plaintiffs made several attempts to serve Germany through The Hague Service Convention, but Germany refused refused to accept service on procedural grounds. The plaintiffs consequently initiated diplomatic service on Germany by asking the U.S. State Department to send the summons and complaint directly to the German Foreign Ministry under diplomatic cover.  After their formal review of the matter, the U.S. State Department completed its service at the end of last year.

After fighting service of the summons and complaint for all of last year, Germany’ has recently accepted service of the complaint and appointed counsel to appear in the case.   On January 12, 2018, Germany filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.  The plaintiffs’ deadline for filing an amended complaint is February 14, 2018.


Ameer Benno Presents Lawline’s Second Annual SCOTUS Preview!

Last week, Erica Dubno and I presented Lawline’s Second Annual SCOTUS Preview.  We addressed the following critical cases that are to be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in its 2018 Term:

  • Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
  • Gill v. Whitford
  • Class v. U.S.
  • Jesner v. Arab Bank
  • McCoy v. Louisiana
  • Christie v. NCAA
  • Carpenter v. U.S.
  • Jennings v. Rodriguez

If you missed the live webcast, you can watch the two-hour presentation On Demand by clicking here!

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