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Foreign Official Immunity After Samantar: A United States Government Perspective, 44 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 1141 (2011)


I am delighted to speak here at Vanderbilt regarding the U.S.

Government's perspective on Foreign Official Immunity after

Samantar v. Yousuf. In the Samantar case, the U.S. Supreme Court

unanimously held that the immunity of foreign government officials

sued in their personal capacity in U.S. courts, including for alleged

human rights violations, is not controlled by the Foreign Sovereign

Immunities Act of 1976, but rather, by immunity determinations

made by the Executive Branch. Let me break my topic today into

three parts: first, the world of foreign official immunity as it existed

before the Samantar case; second, the Supreme Court's decision in

Samantar and its implications; and third, the State Department's

"New Samantar Process," which has been emerging since the

Supreme Court's decision-focusing, in particular, on distinguishing

what we call Samantar issues from non-Samantar issues, the effect of

a State Department suggestion of immunity, and the effect of State

Department silence with respect to a foreign official's claim of


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