For Immediate Release
SCOTUS Petition Asks Justices to Review Torture Abuse Case of British Former Guantánamo Detainees a Second Time
Detainees Declared Not to Be “Persons” by Lower Courts
today filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of four British
citizens who were tortured and subjected to religious humiliation at
Guantánamo. The petition marks the second time in the last year that
the British citizens have asked the Supreme Court to review their case.
The four former detainees - Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and
Jamal Al-Harith - were held from 2002 to 2004 at Guantánamo before
being sent home to England without being charged with any offense. They
filed their case in 2004 seeking damages from former Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld and senior American military officers for
violation of their constitutional rights and the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act, which prohibits infringement of religion by the U.S.
government against any person. Their claims were dismissed in 2008 by
the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals when that court held
that detainees have no rights under the Constitution and do not count
as "persons" for purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Last year, the Supreme Court granted the men's first petition, vacated
the Court of Appeals decision and ordered the D.C. Circuit to
reconsider its ruling in light of the Supreme Court's historic decision
in Boumediene v. Bush, which held that Guantánamo is de facto U.S.
territory, that detainees have a Constitutional right to habeas corpus
and that detainees have fundamental constitutional rights.
On remand, the D.C. Circuit reiterated its view that the Constitution
does not prohibit torture of detainees at Guantánamo and that detainees
still are not "persons" protected from religious abuse. Finally, the
Court of Appeals held that, in any event, the government officials
involved are immune from liability.
The petition filed today pointed out that the Court of Appeals decision
stands in conflict with all of the Supreme Court's recent precedent on
This case presents a unique and compelling opportunity
for this Court to affirm that torture at Guantánamo was a violation of
fundamental rights as well as to make clear to inferior courts that its
constitutional jurisprudence regarding Guantánamo must be taken
seriously. Left in place, the Court of Appeals' decision will be a
final assertion of judicial indifference in the face of calculated
torture and humiliation of Muslims in their religion. The decision
The petition also attacked the notion that the prohibitions against
torture and religious abuse were not clearly established in 2002 when
the petitioners were imprisoned. It notes that the defendants wrote and
received memoranda and reports that expressly acknowledged the
longstanding laws prohibiting abuse and torture of prisoners. As the
petition noted, Guantánamo appears to have been selected as the
incarceration center for these prisoners "in a cynical attempt to avoid
accountability for conduct that had long been held unconstitutional
when it occurred in U.S. prisons."
Eric Lewis, lead counsel for the Petitioners,
commented, "There must be accountability for these violations of core
American ideals. The Supreme Court has been a bulwark in establishing
the rule of law at Guantánamo and it is imperative that the Court
strongly affirms that the judiciary will not stand silent in the face
of officially sanctioned torture."
Bill Quigley, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights,
said, "This is a moment of truth for the Obama administration. Will it
support a decision that says detainees have no right to be free of
torture and that government officials who order torture should not be
held accountable for their actions? To be true to the principles on
which this administration was elected, the Justice Department should
support a strong judicial affirmation of the prohibition against
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years -
sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the
first attorney to meet with a former CIA "ghost detainee" there. CCR
has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro
bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at
Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal
representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the
approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot
return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
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