CCR Statement on Supreme Court Ruling Against Holding High-Level Officials Accountable for Post-9/11 Domestic Sweeps

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jen Nessel, 212.614.6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org
David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000

CCR Statement on Supreme Court Ruling Against Holding High-Level Officials Accountable for Post-9/11 Domestic Sweeps

Supreme Court Creates New Hurdle for Victims of Racial and Religious Discrimination

WASHINGTON - Today the United States Supreme Court issued a decision against a post-9/11
detainee’s challenge to former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI
Director Robert Mueller’s role in his discriminatory confinement and
abuse. The 5-4 majority ruled that Mr. Iqbal has not included enough facts in
his complaint to show those defendants “adopted and implemented the
detention policies at issue ... for the purpose of discriminating on account of
race, religion, or national origin,” rather than “for a neutral,
investigative reason.”

Ashcroft
v. Iqbal is a companion case to the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR) class action, Turkmen
v. Ashcroft
.  Both cases involve allegations that Muslim,
Arab, and South Asian men were swept up after 9/11 based solely on race and
religion and without any evidence of a connection to terrorism, treated as
terrorists – held in supermaximum security confinement and abused –
until they were cleared of any connection to terrorism, and
deported.   

Ashcroft and Mueller have argued that, as high-ranking government
officials, they cannot be held liable for discriminating against Mr. Iqbal
because Mr. Iqbal did not provide enough detail regarding their specific
illegal actions at the time the case was filed.  The Supreme Court sent
the case back to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether Iqbal
should have a chance to amend his complaint to include more facts about the
defendants’ state of mind and involvement in the alleged discrimination. 

“The slim majority decision is a grave
disappointment, and we condemn it,” said CCR Attorney Rachel Meeropol. “This decision makes it
easier for those who run our country to escape liability when they act with
their subordinates to target people for the color of their skin or the tenets
of their faith. That said, we are hopeful that justice will eventually be done
for Mr. Iqbal and for our clients, as we currently have much evidence of
Ashcroft’s and Mueller’s personal involvement in the 9/11
sweeps.” 

The Turkmen plaintiffs
filed an amicus brief in Iqbal
that contains much of that detailed factual information, including evidence
that Ashcroft and Mueller were provided detailed daily briefings and
information about who was being arrested, and why.  The evidence shows
that Muslim, Arab and South Asian men were arrested after 9/11 based on tips
from the public that reflected nothing more than a general suspicion of men who
“looked Arab.”  Without anything more, these men were held for
months in the most restrictive confinement that exists in federal prisons.

Michael Winger, co-counsel at Covington & Burling,
LLP, explained:
“Plaintiffs in Iqbal and Turkmen are in a unique situation. 
We have had the benefit of a meticulous and far-reaching government
investigation, and over a hundred depositions, giving us the kind of detail the
Supreme Court has now said plaintiffs need.  But few plaintiffs get access
to such details about the work of high level government officials.  I fear
that this case will keep many victims of governmental discrimination and abuse
from ever getting their day in court.”

For more
information on Turkmen v. Ashcroft,
click here.

The
Center for Constitutional Rights represents other victims of the Bush
administration’s unlawful practices, from Canadian rendition victim Maher
Arar, to Iraqis tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib prison, to both current and
former Guantanamo
detainees.  For more information on CCR’s work on illegal detention,
torture and abuse at Guantánamo
Bay, visit our website at
www.ccrjustice.org.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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