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CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Suit Seeking Accountability for
NEW YORK - December 14 - Today, the United States Supreme Court refused to review a lower court's dismissal of a case brought by four British former detainees against Donald Rumsfeld and senior military officers for ordering torture and religious abuse at Guantánamo. The British detainees spent more than two years in
The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By refusing to hear the case, the Court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" did not apply to detainees at
Eric Lewis, a partner in Washington, D.C.'s Baach Robinson & Lewis, lead attorney for the detainees, said, "It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when the Supreme Court lets stand such an inhuman decision. The final word on whether these men had a right not to be tortured or a right to practice their religion free from abuse is that they did not. Future prospective torturers can now draw comfort from this decision. The lower court found that torture is all in a days' work for the Secretary of Defense and senior generals. That violates the President's stated policy, our treaty obligations and universal legal norms. Yet the Obama administration, in its rush to protect executive power, lost its moral compass and persuaded the Supreme Court to avoid a central moral challenge. Today our standing in the world has suffered a further great loss."
The four former detainees - Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Jamal Al-Harith - were held from 2002 to 2004 at Guantánamo before being sent home to
Last year, the Supreme Court granted the men's first petition, vacated the Court of Appeals decision and ordered the D.C. Circuit to reconsider its ruling in light of the Supreme Court's historic decision in Boumediene v. Bush, which held that Guantánamo is de facto U.S. territory and that detainees have a Constitutional right to habeas corpus.
On remand, the D.C. Circuit reiterated its view that the Constitution does not prohibit torture of detainees at Guantánamo and that detainees still are not "persons" protected from religious abuse. Finally, the Court of Appeals held that, in any event, the government officials involved are immune from liability because the right not to be tortured was not clearly established.
A second petition filed with the Court on August 24, 2009 pointed out that the Court of Appeals decision stands in conflict with all of the Supreme Court's recent precedent on Guantánamo and attacked the notion that the prohibitions against torture and religious abuse were not clearly established in 2002 when the petitioners were imprisoned.
Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal, co-counsel on the case, said, "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has refused to hold Secretary Rumsfeld and the chain of civilian and military command accountable for torture at Guantánamo, and that the Obama administration sought to block torture victims from having their day in court. Where can these men seek justice now for the terrible things that were done to them? The entire world recognizes that torture and religious humiliation are never permissible tools for a government, yet our highest court seems to think otherwise."
CCR has led the legal battle over
Baach Robinson & Lewis, a Washington, D.C. litigation firm has been in the forefront of detainee litigation, working on behalf of both Guantanamo and Afghan detainees, since early 2004.
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