Brief Fact Summary. The suit the natives of Somalia (P) brought against Samantar (D) was based on their claims that they were victims of acts of torture and that their human rights were violated by the agents of the Somali government under the command of Samantar (D). The Natives brought this suit under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 and on Samantar (D) on his part claimed immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Individual officials of a foreign state are not covered under the FSIA.
Courts consistently deferred to the decisions of the political branches-in particular, those of the Executive Branch-on whether to take jurisdiction over actions against foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Are individual officials of a foreign state covered under the FSIA?
Held. No. Individual officials of a foreign state are not covered under the FSIA. Most courts in their consideration of the definition of â€œagency or instrumentalityâ€ as stated in the FSIA, have concluded that an individual foreign official acting within the scope of his official duties is qualified as an â€œagency or instrumentality of a foreign stateâ€. A critical look at the FSIA definition of an agency or instrumentality as an â€œentityâ€ that is a â€œseparate legal personâ€¦..â€ suggests that natural persons are not covered under the FSIA.
According to the House Committee Report on the FSIA which in throwing more light on the meaning of â€œseparate legal personâ€ opined that separate legal person was intended to include a corporation, association, foundation, or any other entity that under the law of the foreign state where it was created in its own name or hold property in its own nameâ€. Therefore it can be ascertained based on these premises that the district court erred in its ruling because the FSIA does not apply to individual foreign government agents like Samantar (D). Reversed.
Discussion. The approach taken by the court has been criticized based on the fact that the primary goals of the FSIA might be undermined because since little practical difference exists between a suit against a state and a suit against an individual acting in his official capacity, plaintiffs will be able to circumvent state immunity by suing government officials in their individual capacities.