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Doe v. Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Anwar Haddam

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Synopsis

Jane Doe v. Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Anwar Haddam is a lawsuit brought on behalf of nine individuals and the Rassemblement Algerien des Femmes Democrates (RAFD) against the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) of Algeria and its leader Anwar Haddam, charging the FIS with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including assassination, rape, and, torture.

Status

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs and their counsel are currently analyzing the judgment to determine their options.

Description

Jane Doe v. Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Anwar Haddam is a lawsuit brought in December 1996 by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic (IWHR) on behalf of nine individuals and the Rassemblement Algerien des Femmes Democrates (RAFD), also known as the Algerian Assembly of Democratic Women. It was brought against the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and its leader Anwar Haddam under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). The suit charges the defendants with committing crimes against humanity and war crimes during their armed conflict with the Algerian government. Claims of human rights violations include assassination, torture, rape, sexual slavery in the form of forced “temporary marriage,” and the enforcement of sexual apartheid.

The FIS and Armed Islamic Group (GIA) – leading paramilitary groups committing atrocities against civilians under the leadership of Anwar Haddam – have targeted Algerian democrats, intellectuals, feminists, journalists, and foreigners who do not conform to Islamist dictates. They enforce their ideas through violence and acts of terror, which include assassination, summary execution, ethnic cleansing, beheading, mutilation, hijacking, school-burning, and sexual slavery. For example, a young girl who was in public without a veil was subsequently beheaded. Young women have been kidnapped, raped, and murdered.

The plaintiffs in this case include feminists, journalists, and human rights workers who are members of an opposition group that has stood up to the oppressive policies of the FIS and the Algerian government. Approximately 1,000 people in Algeria and in exile have, at great personal risk, already signed papers indicating their support of this case. One plaintiff, Jane Doe II, watched as an airplane that contained her sister and daughter was hijacked by the GIA on December 24, 1994. Jane Doe IX’s husband was a journalist for a secular newspaper that was often critical of the Islamic insurgency. He was killed in 1995.

Timeline

In 1996, the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Defendant Haddam filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds of personal jurisdiction, service, and subject matter jurisdiction.

On February 3, 1998, Judge Stanley Sporkin rejected the defendant Haddam’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The court ruled that it had jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), rejecting the defendant’s argument that ATCA was confined to state actors. It also found it had jurisdiction under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA), holding that the statute’s state action requirement does not require that a particular government be officially recognized and the statute is equally applicable to a de facto state. Judge Sporkin ruled that the alleged acts of the FIS are clearly in violation of international law, citing Common Article 3’s applicability to internal armed conflict.

CCR filed a motion to compel discovery.

Haddam moved for summary judgment to have the case dismissed.

On March 31, 2003, Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted Haddam's motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery. Also, the court denied standing to the RAFD, reasoning that since RAFD is seeking money damages it does not have associational standing because "individualized proof would be required from each member to determine the correct amount of damages if Haddam were found liable." The court also revisited the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, which had been previously decided in favor of the plaintiffs, and found that the complaint was sufficiently different to merit reconsideration.

Subsequently, United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that the plaintiffs' allegations of Haddam's complicity in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity were not supported by the weight of legal authority. The court found that the plaintiffs had not offered sufficient evidence showing Haddam's complicity in the alleged acts of the armed Islamic groups to avoid summary judgment.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia found in favor of the defendants. CCR believes that this decision was wrongly decided on numerous legal and factual bases. A victory in this case would have further established the principle that freedom from sexual violence is a right recognized under international human rights protections and a tort actionable in U.S. courts. The plaintiffs and their counsel are currently analyzing the judgment to determine their options.

 

 

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