For Immediate Release
Rachel Myers, (646) 206-8643 or (212) 549-2666;
Obama Administration Seeks to Keep Torture Victims From Having Day in Court
Justice Department Asks Court for Rehearing in Extraordinary Rendition Lawsuit Against Boeing Subsidiary
"extraordinary rendition" program should not have their day in court,
asking a federal appeals court to block a landmark case the court had
earlier ruled could go forward. In April, the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals ruled that an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against
Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., for its role in the Bush
administration's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program could
proceed, but today the government asked the appeals court's full panel
of judges to rehear that decision.
"The Obama administration has now
fully embraced the Bush administration's shameful effort to immunize
torturers and their enablers from any legal consequences for their
actions," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National
Security Project, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. "The CIA's
rendition and torture program is not a 'state secret;' it's an
international scandal. If the Obama administration has its way, no
torture victim will ever have his day in court, and future
administrations will be free to pursue torture policies without any
fear of liability."
In April, the appeals court reversed
a lower court dismissal of the lawsuit, brought on behalf of five men
who were kidnapped, forcibly disappeared and secretly transferred to
U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they
were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration had
intervened, improperly asserting the "state secrets" privilege to have
the case thrown out. The appeals court ruled, as the ACLU has argued,
that the government must invoke the "state secrets" privilege with
respect to specific evidence, not to dismiss the entire suit.
"The extraordinary rendition program
is well known throughout the world. The only place it hasn't been
discussed is where it most cries out for examination - in a U.S. court
of law," said Steven Watt, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights
Program. "Attempts to keep this case from moving forward fly in the
face of Obama's promise to reaffirm our commitment to domestic and
international human rights law and restore an America we can be proud
of. Victims of extraordinary rendition deserve their day in court."
In recent years, the government has
asserted the "state secrets" claim with increasing regularity in an
attempt to throw out lawsuits and justify withholding information from
the public not only about the rendition program, but also about illegal
wiretapping, torture and other breaches of U.S. and international law.
Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of Al-Rawi, Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah.
In addition to Wizner and Watt,
attorneys in the lawsuit are Steven R. Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the
national ACLU, Ann Brick of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul
Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman
LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In
addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Amna Akbar of the International
Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law and Clive
Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent plaintiffs in this case.
More information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/jeppesen
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.