Cases and Deals

Blank Rome Secures Significant Pro Bono Victory for Victims of Lutheran Church Massacre

Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce a significant pro bono victory for the Firm when, on December 14, 2018, U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker in Philadelphia refused to dismiss a suit against Moses Thomas, a man accused of leading a military unit in Liberia that slaughtered 600 unarmed civilians who had taken shelter in a church. The judge’s ruling will move forward claims brought against Thomas under the Torture Victim Protection Act and Alien Tort Statute.

The Firm, along with Debevoise & Plimpton and the Center for Justice and Accountability, filed the complaint on behalf of four Liberian citizens who survived the massacre on the night of July 29, 1990, when Liberia was in the midst of civil war and Thomas allegedly commanded 45 soldiers to enter St. Peter’s Lutheran Church where refugees took shelter, opening fire on the sleeping men, women, and children. Thomas moved to the United States in 2000 and now lives in the Philadelphia area.  

Despite the lack of accountability in Liberia for this massacre, the suit faced significant hurdles, notably statute of limitations (10 years) conflicts and the court’s jurisdiction over extraterritorial claims. Included in the arguments were questions on the ongoing injuries and suffering of the victims who survived as they relate to the statute of limitations, Liberia’s history of not prosecuting any war crimes arising from civil wars, and potential retaliation against the plaintiffs if they attempted to seek redress in Liberia, among others.

For more information on this ruling, please read Daily Dicta: Debevoise; Blank Rome Score for Victims of Long-Ago Massacre.