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).

Phillipine Court of Appeals Refuses to Enforce $2 Billion Judgment Awarded by a U.S. Court in ATS and TVPA Case

The Court of Appeals of the Philippines has upheld its earlier decision against the enforcement of a Hawaii federal district court’s judgment granting Martial Law victims under the Marcos regime almost $2 billion in damages.

In refusing to enforce the judgment, the Philippines appellate court held that the case, which was a class action suit filed by 10,000 victims against the Marcos estate, gave “no opportunity for the … Estate [of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos] to confront each and every claimant,” and therefore the judgment was obtained in violation of Marcos’ constitutional due process rights.  The court declared that “rules of comity should not be made to prevail over our constitution.”

The Court of Appeals also concluded that the judgment against Marcos’ estate was “constitutionally infirm” because, although the complaint was filed under the Alien Torts Statute, the judgment was imposed under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

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