In Effect, Appeals Court Rules Torture & Abuse Is All ‘Foreseeable’ Part of Job at Guantanamo Bay

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Janice Rogers Brown

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other employees of the Defense Department and effectively determined that torture or abuse, which Guantanamo Bay prisoners cleared for release may have experienced, was “incidental” and within the “scope of their employment.”

“Authorized or not, the conduct was certainly foreseeable because maintaining peace, security, and safety at a place like Guantanamo Bay is a stern and difficult business,” the court declared in its decision. “We are therefore hard-pressed to conclude the actions leading to the plaintiffs’ treatment were not ‘a direct outgrowth of the [defendants’] instructions or job assignment.'”

The court also found, “The treatment of the detainees in this case appears to be standard for all those similarly situated.”

Six former Guantanamo prisoners represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) alleged in a civil suit that the “Pentagon chain of command authorized and condoned torture and other mistreatment in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, which has historically allowed foreign citizens to pursue cases in courts for human rights abuses. CCR also alleged the chain of command had violated the Vienna Convention, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Federal Civil Rights Act and the US Constitution.

Yuksel Celikgogus, Ibrahim Sen, Nuri Mert, Zakirjan Hasam and Abu Muhammad were subjected to “prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, exposure to temperature extremes, light and sound manipulation, beatings, threats of transfer to a foreign country for torture, sexual harassment, forced nudity, exploitation of individual phobias, forced stress positions, the removal of ‘comfort items,’ including religious items, deprivation of medical treatment or the provision of medical treatment on the condition of cooperation with interrogators and prolonged ‘short-shackling’ with wrists and ankles bound together and to the floor.”

These six prisoners also were victims of religious and cultural abuse that included “forced grooming, mocking or disruption of prayer or the call to prayer, the removal of religious items and the desecration of their Koran or the Koran of other detainees through intentional touching, dropping, stepping on or throwing it.”

In Effect, Appeals Court Rules Torture & Abuse Is All ‘Foreseeable’ Part of Job at Guantanamo Bay

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Janice Rogers Brown

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other employees of the Defense Department and effectively determined that torture or abuse, which Guantanamo Bay prisoners cleared for release may have experienced, was “incidental” and within the “scope of their employment.”

“Authorized or not, the conduct was certainly foreseeable because maintaining peace, security, and safety at a place like Guantanamo Bay is a stern and difficult business,” the court declared in its decision. “We are therefore hard-pressed to conclude the actions leading to the plaintiffs’ treatment were not ‘a direct outgrowth of the [defendants’] instructions or job assignment.'”

The court also found, “The treatment of the detainees in this case appears to be standard for all those similarly situated.”

Six former Guantanamo prisoners represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) alleged in a civil suit that the “Pentagon chain of command authorized and condoned torture and other mistreatment in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, which has historically allowed foreign citizens to pursue cases in courts for human rights abuses. CCR also alleged the chain of command had violated the Vienna Convention, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Federal Civil Rights Act and the US Constitution.

Yuksel Celikgogus, Ibrahim Sen, Nuri Mert, Zakirjan Hasam and Abu Muhammad were subjected to “prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, exposure to temperature extremes, light and sound manipulation, beatings, threats of transfer to a foreign country for torture, sexual harassment, forced nudity, exploitation of individual phobias, forced stress positions, the removal of ‘comfort items,’ including religious items, deprivation of medical treatment or the provision of medical treatment on the condition of cooperation with interrogators and prolonged ‘short-shackling’ with wrists and ankles bound together and to the floor.”

These six prisoners also were victims of religious and cultural abuse that included “forced grooming, mocking or disruption of prayer or the call to prayer, the removal of religious items and the desecration of their Koran or the Koran of other detainees through intentional touching, dropping, stepping on or throwing it.”

The civil lawsuit also challenged prolonged detention. Hasam, Muhammad and Allaithi were each cleared for release by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT). Although they were no longer “enemy combatants,” they remained at Guantanamo.

Hasam was cleared on May 8, 2005, but not released to Albania until November 16, 2006. Muhammad was cleared in May 2005, but was not released until two years later. Allaithi was cleared “sometime after November 2004,” but it took ten months before he was transferred into the custody of Egyptian officials.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, acknowledged that “memoranda” from the Pentagon made “no mention” of acts during post-clearance detention. “Disruption of religious practices, the shackling and chaining of detainees, and the imposition of solitary confinement” was not encouraged. “Still,” the court determined, the actions “fell within the scope of employment.”

Hasam, as Brown noted, was shackled and chained, made to wear blackened goggles and ear coverings, subjected to sleep deprivation, body searches and was forcibly shaved. Guards disrupted Muhammad’s religious practice and desecrated his Koran after he was cleared by the CSRT. But the court still found that the “need to maintain an orderly detention environment remained after CSRT clearance” and this was all a part of keeping order. (more…)