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No Legal Redress for Victim of 'Kafkaesque Nightmare' at Guantanamo

Syrian man's appeal for accountability for torture dealt blow by US Supreme Court

A January 2015 rally against the 14th year of Guantanamo torture. (Photo:  Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

A Syrian man lost his legal bid on Monday to seek damages from the United States for the torture he suffered at the hands of U.S. authorities during his seven years at Guantanamo that continued a "Kafkaesque nightmare."

The setback for Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday (pdf) to decline to review an appeals court ruling in January 2014 that he could not sue for the torture he experienced at the offshore prison because of the Military Commissions Act (MCA).

The MCA states: "No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."

The high court's decision leaves that ruling in place.

Janko, who was freed from Guantanamo in 2009, launched his suit against the U.S. military in 2010.

Janko's complaint at the time charged that he "is the victim of a decade-long Kafkaesque nightmare from which he is just awakening."

His nightmare began in 2000 when, as the Washington Post reported ay the time, he "was tortured by al-Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban under medieval conditions for 18 months on suspicion of being a spy for the United States or Israel." Then, the legal complaint continues:

Mr. Janko was liberated by U.S. forces in December 2001. He was one of five non-Afghan prisoners liberated who became known to journalists as the "Kandahar Five." He immediately offered his assistance to the United States as a material witness to human rights violations committed by the Taliban against U.S. citizens at the prison. Initially he was treated well by U.S. liberators and he cooperated fully with them.

In January 2002 former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller held a press conference. At the press conference they showed a photo of Mr. Janko taken from the videotape of his coerced confession at the hands of his Taliban captors. He was called an international terrorist even though there was no basis for this statement. This false accusation was broadcast to the world by Time Magazine and other media.

After this false accusation U.S. forces detained Mr. Janko and subjected him to torture and other forms of inhumane treatment apparently believing that he was connected with U.S. enemies. In May 2002 he was transported to Guantánamo Naval Base and he languished there for more than seven years in legal and psychological limbo. After the Supreme Court's decision in Rasul v. Bush (2004) allowed Janko to file a habeas corpus petition he did so. No action was taken on the petition until the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush (2008). On June 22, 2009, District Judge Richard J. Leon found that Mr. Janko was not an "enemy combatant" and ordered his release from U.S. custody. He was released on October 7, 2009.

The complaint added: "Whether a country provides redress for the people it has wronged in violation of international and U.S. law is a true test of the character of a nation."

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