ACLU in Appeals Court to Hold Officials Accountable For Torture of Jose Padilla

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Josh Bell, ACLU, (212) 549-2508 or 2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU in Appeals Court to Hold Officials Accountable For Torture of Jose Padilla

Torture Crimes Must Not Go Unpunished, Says ACLU

RICHMOND, Va. - The American Civil Liberties Union argued in a federal appeals court today for the reinstatement of a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other government officials for their role in the unlawful detention and torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla.

"The defendants in this case seized Jose Padilla from a civilian jail and hid him away in a military brig precisely to keep the courts from interfering with the terrible things they were doing to him. By granting the defendants legal immunity for their cruel acts, the district court vindicated their deliberate efforts to circumvent the Constitution," said Ben Wizner, litigation director of the ACLU National Security Project. "If the law does not protect Jose Padilla – an American citizen arrested on American soil and tortured in an American prison – it protects no one."

The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ruled in February that the defendants were entitled to "qualified immunity" for their roles in the detention and abuse of Padilla because no "clearly established" law prohibited the torture of an American citizen designated an "enemy combatant" by the executive branch. The ACLU asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reinstate the case.

Padilla was taken from a U.S. jail in 2002 by military agents, declared an "enemy combatant" and secretly transported to a military brig in South Carolina. He was imprisoned without charge for nearly four years, subjected to extreme abuse and was unable to communicate with his lawyers or family for two years. The illegal treatment included forcing Padilla into stress positions for hours on end, punching him, depriving him of sleep and threatening him with further torture and death.

Attorneys on the case are Wizner and Alex Abdo of the ACLU; Jonathan Frieman, Hope Metcalf and Tahlia Townsend of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School; and Michael O'Connell of the law firm Stirling & O'Connell.

More information about the case is available online at:
www.aclu.org/national-security/padilla-v-rumsfeld

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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