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Ruling Means Gitmo Detainees Have No Legal Protection: Rights Group

Daniel Tencer

A federal court ruling this week that prevented the families of two
dead Guantanamo detainees from seeking damages means that "no court can
hear abuse and wrongful death claims from Guantanamo," says a
human-rights group.

"In dismissing the case, the district court
ruled that the deceased's constitutional claims ... could not be heard
in federal court," said the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a
statement released Thursday.

On Wednesday, a US district court in Washington, DC, rejected claims for damages from the families of two Guantanamo inmates who were found dead in 2006.

Ahmed Al-Salami and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, along with a third inmate,
Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, were found dead in their barracks with rags
stuffed down their throats in June, 2006.

Al-Salami's and
Al-Zahrani's families had sued, claiming it was "a violation of due
process and cruel treatment to detain them for four years without
charge while subjecting them to inhumane and degrading conditions of
confinement and violent acts of torture and abuse," according to the
Center for Constitutional Rights.

their deaths were ruled suicides by the US military, subsequent
investigations have cast serious doubt on that assertion.

A report from Seton Hall University Law School,
released late last year, questioned how -- and why -- three people who
hanged themselves would have managed to stuff rags down their throats
before they died. Another question was why neither the guards on duty
nor the paramedics who showed up were interviewed; or, for that matter,
why the paramedics who showed up didn't even ask the guards what had

Last month, journalist and constitutional lawyer Scott Horton reported that four US soldiers had cast doubt on the official version of events.
Horton's report suggested that the trio were taken to a "black site" at
the Guantanamo base, possibly run by the CIA, and their deaths may have
been the result of the activities that took place there. The report
also indicated that there may have been a concerted attempt to cover up
the actual events that led to the deaths.

In their lawsuit
against the United States, the families of Al-Salami and Al-Zahrani
argued that the duo had been subjected to "specific methods and acts of
physical and psychological torture and abuse, including sleep
deprivation, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, invasive body
searches, beatings, threats, inadequate medical treatment and religious
abuse, such as forced shaving and desecration of the Quran," according to Courthouse News.

her decision, US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that the
inmates had been officially designated "enemy combatants" and were
therefore not automatically entitled to due process in US courts. The
judge also cited previous rulings which asserted that the Guantanamo
facility is not on US soil, and US courts therefore have little
jurisdiction over what happens there.

"These men were tortured
and detained for four years on the basis of an arbitrary designation of
'enemy combatant' and died in the custody of the United States
military," said Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney at the Center for
Constitutional Rights. "They and their families should have the right
to have their claims heard at the very least."

Kebriaei added
that "the court's decision is all the more troubling in light of recent
information that seriously undermines the official account of how these
men died, and creates an even greater urgency for transparency and

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