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Mohammad v. Tarraf

April 4, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard J. Arcara Chief Judge United States District Court



Currently before the Court are motions to dismiss on behalf of defendants Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum ("Sheikh Maktoum") and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum ("Sheikh Mohammed") (collectively the "Bin Maktoum defendants")*fn1 , and defendants Mohammed Hilal Bin Tarraf and Hilal Bin Tarraf (collectively the "Bin Tarraf defendants"). For the reasons discussed herein, the motions to dismiss are granted.


On April 12, 2002, the plaintiff filed the instant action pro se against the Bin Maktoum defendants, the Bin Tarraf defendants, and the UAE, seeking $2,000,000 in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and other relief. The plaintiff stated that he is a resident of Canada, and a citizen of Pakistan. The plaintiff's claims included "violation of international criminal law," "racial discrimination violation of international law," "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment," "violations of the rights to life, health and security of the person," "consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights," actual and constructive fraud, and trespass.

Plaintiff's allegations arise from a poultry farming venture in which the plaintiff allegedly was a partner, together with defendant Mohammed Hilal Bin Tarraf. Plaintiff claims that Mohammed Hilal Bin Tarraf confiscated his interest in that venture on November 26, 1995 "with the active support of Royals of Dubai." The plaintiff alleged the following harassment: confiscation of personal belongings; the expulsion of his children from school; deprivation of utility services for several days; "being made a hostage" at his home by a group of Royal workers for roughly two weeks, being followed by the "Royals' agents," threats of physical harm, and the refusal of UAE education officials to endorse the academic certificates of his children. In this way, the plaintiff claims that he and his family "were tortured for three years both mentally and physically." Attempts to obtain relief from various officials and the UAE justice system for their plight allegedly were unavailing and resulted in threats of "grave consequences including physical elimination."

The plaintiff does not allege that he or his family were physically attacked or tormented in any way. He likewise does not allege that he was ever taken into custody or incarcerated.

On May 9, 2002, the District Court, in a decision by Hon. John T. Elfvin, dismissed the complaint sua sponte for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court first held that the UAE was immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"). The Court dismissed all claims against the other defendants because the plaintiff failed to state a claim supporting jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Claims Act ("ATCA"), as the claims did not bear a close connection to the United States, and there was no allegation that the individual defendants acted under color of law. All claims were dismissed with prejudice.

Plaintiff appealed, and on September 21, 2004, in a Summary Order, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court decision, but concluded that the pro se plaintiff should have the opportunity to amend the complaint. The Second Circuit held that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim under either the ATCA or its companion act, the Torture Victim's Protection Act of 1991 ("TVPA"). The Second Circuit's remand instructions were:

Although Mohammad's complaint, on its face, does not allege that the TVPA was violated in contravention of the ATCA and the law of nations, a pro se litigant should typically receive at least one opportunity to amend his or her complaint . . . . Since Mohammad might, upon amending his claims, adequately allege harms arising under the ATCA, we vacate the district court's decision and remand the case with instructions to permit the plaintiff to amend his complaint. (emphasis added).

On November 1, 2004, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. The amended complaint's seven claims are the same as those in the initial complaint. The plaintiff merely added some introductory language to the amended complaint summarizing claims and stating the standard for TVPA, while deleting other language referring to the UAE and to his family. He states in conclusory fashion that the Bin Tarraf defendants "have physically tortured him . . . false imprisoned him . . . [and] mentally tortured him." He also added the allegation that "[a]s a matter of fact, Sheikh Maktoum was the main actor in torturing, humiliating and defaming the plaintiff and his directions were followed by all the defendants" The factual allegations concerning torture, however, are identical to those in the initial complaint.

On January 3, 2005, the plaintiff requested a default, which was entered by the Clerk on January 5, 2005. The Bin Maktoum defendants and the Bin Tarraf defendants moved to vacate the default, and this Court did so in a decision and order, dated September 26, 2005. The plaintiff then appealed to the Second Circuit, which declined to hear the matter because there was no final order.


1. Case Must be Dismissed under "Law of the ...

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