WASHINGTON -- March 1 -- Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights welcomed the American Civil Liberties and Human Rights First suits filed today against U.S. government officials for torture at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere [MSOffice1] and reiterated their call for a full and public inquiry and an independent prosecutor to look into the issue. The action by the two groups joins many cases brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights in the last two years against U.S. officials and others concerning torture, rendition and the creation of policies and practices that violate domestic and international laws. To place the suit in context, CCR has prepared a list of its related litigation below.
CCR President Michael Ratner said "We're glad our allies at the ACLU and Human Rights First have joined the fight to hold high-level officials accountable for the illegal torture of detainees The fight to hold officials up the chain of command accountable is gaining momentum. When our clients from the U.K. were released from Guantánamo and told the world about the abuses they endured, no one believed them. When our client who was rendered to Syria for torture came back to tell the tale, the story had little traction. Now the evidence is overwhelming that our government is perpetrating heinous acts of torture and abuse in our name the world over." Philadelphia attorney Susan Burke - co-counsel with CCR on the case against the private government contractors CACI and Titan, Inc. for their role in the torture at Abu Ghraib that also names U.S. government officials as co-conspirators - said, "I applaud their actions, which are critical to ensuring that the United States adheres to the rule of law rather than succumbing to the tyranny of torturers."
RECENT CCR TORTURE CASES
Rasul v. Rumsfeld: In October 2004, the leading commercial litigation firm of Baach Robinson & Lewis and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) brought suit on behalf of four British detainees released from Guantánamo Bay against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers, Major General Geoffrey Miller, and senior officers in their individual capacities responsible for the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo. Seeking $10 million in damages, the suit charges that the Pentagon chain of command authorized and condoned torture and other mistreatment in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. None of the detainees had ever been a member of any terrorist group or taken up arms against the United States. They were released in March and returned to Britain without ever being charged with a crime. Saleh v. Titan: In June 2004, Philadelphia attorney Susan Burke, Michigan attorney Shereef Akeel and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of more than a thousand Iraqi victims against the private contractors CACI and Titan, Inc. for their role in the torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. The suit names U.S. government officials as co-conspirators. Arar v. Ashcroft: CCR brought suit against government officials including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, former INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar and FBI Director Robert Mueller on behalf of tortured rendition victim Maher Arar in January 2004. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was arrested by U.S. officials at John F. Kennedy Airport in September 2002 and flown to Syria where he was tortured and kept underground in a 3-by-6-by-7 foot cell for ten months by Syrian intelligence officials before being released without charge.
German war crimes complaint: In a historic effort to hold high-ranking U.S. officials accountable for brutal acts of torture including the widely publicized abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib, the Center for Constitutional Rights, German attorneys and four Iraqi citizens filed a criminal complaint in November 2004 with the German Federal Prosecutor's Office under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, whereby suspected war criminals may be prosecuted irrespective of where they are located. Officials named include Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, current Attorney General and former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, former CIA Director George Tenet, Under Secretary of Defense Stephen Cambone Major General Geoffrey Miller, and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. Despite the evidence and the legal merits of the case, the Prosecutor recently caved in to political pressure and refused to take the case on the grounds that he claimed to believe the United States would investigate the matter itself. CCR is appealing that decision.
ACLU, CCR, et al. v. Department of Defense: The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace, filed a suit in June 2004 that charged the Department of Defense and other government agencies with illegally withholding records concerning the abuse of detainees in American military custody. According to the lawsuit, the failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the same groups more than six months prior constitutes a deliberate and unlawful withholding of information from the public. Thousands of important and incriminating documents continue to come to light from this action. Turkmen v. Ashcroft <http://www.ccr-ny.org/v2/legal/september_
- In April 2002, CCR filed a civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former INS Commissioner James W. Ziglar, and officials of the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York, on behalf of a class of male Muslim non-citizens from Arab and South Asian countries who were swept up by the INS and FBI in the dragnet that followed September 11. The suit charges that the INS arrested this group on the pretext of minor immigration violations and secretly detained them for the weeks and months the FBI took to clear them of terrorism, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law. The suit further charges that some of these detainees were improperly assigned to the MDC, kept in solitary confinement with the lights on 24 hours a day, placed under a communications blackout so that they could not seek the assistance of their attorneys, families, and friends, subjected to physical and verbal abuse, forced to endure inhumane conditions of confinement, and obstructed in their efforts to practice their religion. Petition to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Behalf of the Guantánamo Detainees <http://www.ccr-ny.org/v2/legal/september
CCR filed a petition asking the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States to intervene against the U.S. government's inhumane treatment of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The U.S. government has denied the Guantánamo detainees their basic rights: hundreds of detainees have suffered abuse in indefinite detention, do not know what they have been charged with, do not have access to counsel, and are being effectively denied their right to trial in U.S. courts.