Appeals court revives Abu Ghraib torture suit
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled (PDF) July 1 that the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over a case of alleged torture in the Abu Ghraib prison because the alleged abuses occurred in Iraq. The case was brought in 2009 by four plaintiffs against military contractor CACI International Inc, accusing the company of crimes against humanity, sexual assault, torture and other violations at Abu Ghraib prison. Applying the fact-based inquiry articulated by the US Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, the court held that the plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the US with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. The court did not reach the conclusion, however, that the issue was not a political question and thus remanded the case to the district court to undertake factual development of the record to make that determination.
Appeals court dismisses Gitmo detainee lawsuit
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 10 dismissed (PDF) a lawsuit brought by a former Guantánamo detainee against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. According to the original complaint (PDF), the plaintiff, Sami Abdulaziz Allaithi, was an Egyptian professor working in Kabul teaching English. When the US started its bombing campaign, the plaintiff fled to Pakistan, was captured and then transferred to the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp where he claims he was tortured and prevented from practicing his religion. This treatment continued even though he was classified as a non-enemy combatant by the Department of Defense's Combatant Status Review Tribunal until he was released. In the opinion, written by Judge Janice Rodgers Brown, the court held that, "[t]he now-settled law reveals several flaws and inadequacies of the Appellants' complaint. ... In response, counsel invites us to remand this case to allow them an opportunity to rectify whatever mistakes lie in their pleadings... We cannot."
Israeli doctors refuse to force-feed hunger strikers
Doctors in Israel are refusing to back proposed legislation that would allow Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to be force-fed. The bill, proposed by the Home Front Defense Ministry, comes as at least 65 of the 290 striking detainees have been hospitalized since they stopped eating on April 24. The legislation would empower judges to sanction force-feeding if a detainee's life is perceived to be in danger. But the Israel Medical Association is urging physicians not to cooperate in the practice. "It goes against the DNA of the doctors to force treatment on a patient," said the IMA's Ziva Miral. "Force-feeding is torture, and we can't have doctors participating in torture."
DoD approves war crimes trial for Qaeda leader
The US Department of Defense on June 2 approved the war crimes trial of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (BBC profile), a leader of al-Qaeda's armed forces between 2002 and 2004. The former CIA captive has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2007. The official charge sheet (PDF) alleges, among other things, that al-Hadi was a superior commander for al-Qaeda and that he and his operatives killed multiple US service members and attacked a US military medical helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades and firearms. Prosecutors also allege that al-Hadi funded and oversaw all of al-Qaeda's operations against US and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2002 to 2004, and that he directed his forces to use various unlawful means, such as attacking civilians and detonating car bombs in civilian areas.
US POW released in exchange for Gitmo detainees
US President Barack Obama announced May 31 that prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl had been released into US custody in exchange for five detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. Bergdahl was the only confirmed US prisoner of war from the conflict in Afghanistan remaining in enemy custody. The Obama administration brokered the deal for Bergdahl's exchange through the Qatari government; once Bergdahl was secured, five high-profile Guantánamo Bay detainees, including the former head of the Taliban army, were transferred to Qatar. Republicans in the US Senate and House of Representatives criticized the exchange, which had been conducted in violation of a law requiring the president to notify Congress 30 days before any detainees are transferred from Guantanamo bay (PDF). The Obama administration maintains that the provision of the law requiring the notification is an unconstitutional violation on his rights as Commander-in-Chief (signing statement, PDF).
Judge orders halt to force-feeding at Gitmo
The US District Court for the District of Columbia on May 16 ordered (PDF) officials at Guantánamo Bay to temporarily suspend forced feedings of a detainee at the facility. Judge Gladys Kessler's unprecedented ruling also bars officials at the facility from subjecting the detainee to so-called forced cell extractions "for the purposes of" tube-feedings until May 21, the date of the next hearing in the case. The ruling also orders the military to preserve more than 100 videos that show the prisoner being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed. Syrian national Abu Wa'el Dhiab (advocacy website) has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2002 after being detained in Pakistan. Dhiab has been cleared for release or transfer out of Guantanamo since 2009, and has been refusing food for over a year. Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale stated in an e-mail that "[w]hile the Department follows the law and only applies enteral feeding in order to preserve life, we will, of course, comply with the judge's order here." (Jurist, May 17; Al Jazeera America, May 16)
ICC reopens probe into UK Iraq detainee abuse
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, announced May 13 that she will reopen a preliminary investigation into alleged mistreatment and killings of Iraqi detainees in Iraq by UK military forces from 2003 through 2008. Bensouda stated that her office received new information in January from two human rights organizations implicating UK officials in detainee abuse. The Rome Statute (PDF) of the ICC allows the prosecutor to "initiate investigations ... on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court." Although Iraq is not a State Party to the ICC, the ICC does have jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed by state nationals in Iraq. To comply with the statute, the ICC must examine several factors during the preliminary investigation, such as "jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice" to determine if such issues meet the Statute's criteria for opening a full investigation. The ICC's original preliminary investigation into this matter, which ended in 2006, did not meet the "required gravity threshold" of the statute. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the ICC in 2006, emphasized that if new information were to surface, the statute affords the ICC the ability to reopen the investigation. The new information received by the ICC in January alleges additional cases and details of detainee mistreatment than were available in the original investigation.
Panel calls for transfer of Yemeni Gitmo prisoner
The Periodic Review Secretariat, a national security panel under the authority of the US Department of Defense (DoD), on April 24 recommended (PDF) the release of a Yemeni prisoner currently held at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner, Ali Ahmad Mohamed al-Razihi, was suspected of acting as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and has been held at Guantánamo since 2002. The Periodic Review Secretariat determines whether certain individuals detained at Guantánamo represent a continuing significant threat to the security of the US such that their continued detention is warranted. In making the determination, the security review panel considered the detainee's plans for the future and the level of his involvement with al-Qaeda, including his behavior throughout detention. The journalist and Guantánamo expert Andy Worthington released a copy of al-Razihi's statement delivered before the review board of the Periodic Review Secretariat on March 20.
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