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Friday, January 14, 2011

D.C. Circuit Will Likely Uphold Dismissal of Torture Lawsuit

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard oral argument in the case of Ali v. Rumsfeld. That suit is being brought by nine Iraqi and Afghan men who allege they were tortured by United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan before being released without charge. ACLU attorney Cecillia Wang argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs.

One of the judges on the panel, Reagan appointee Judge David Sentelle, seemed convinced that earlier precedent precluded the panel from finding for the plaintiffs. Telegraphing his intention to rule against the plaintiffs, Judge Sentelle told the Department of Justice lawyer defending the case that he need not make oral argument.

The case was dismissed by District Court Judge Thomas Hogan in March of 2007. Judge Hogan's opinion referred to the case as "appalling" and as raising "horrible torture allegations." He noted that "the facts alleged in the complaint stand as an indictment of the humanity with which the United States treats its detainees." Nonetheless, Judge Hogan ruled that constitutional protections do not extend to nonresident aliens, and that Rumsfeld and other Bush Administration officials were immune from liability.

It is widely expected that the three-judge panel will affirm Judge Hogan's dismissal of the claim. Dan Froomkin with the Huffington Post has more details about the case here.

Alliance for Justice remains concerned that yet again, high-level officials who authorized and justified torture have been let off the hook and will not be held to account for their actions. AFJ’s short film Tortured Law highlights the role that Office of Legal Counsel lawyers played in crafting the detention and interrogation program, and calls for a full-scale investigation into the authors of the "torture memos."

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