Federal judge dismisses Guantanamo detainee wrongful death suit

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that claims of unlawful treatment and wrongful death brought on behalf of two former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees are barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF]. The two men, Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, were among three detainees who allegedly hanged themselves [JURIST report] in their cells in July 2006. The claim was brought [JURIST report] against former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive] and more than 100 military officers and personnel under the Alien Tort Claims Act [text], which provides that district courts have original jurisdiction to hear claims for torts "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." The defendants moved to dismiss the suit based on section 7 of the MCA, which removes the ability of federal courts to hear challenges to the treatment of aliens who have been "properly detained" as enemy combatants. In the ruling, US District Judge Ellen Huvelle found that since the two men had been properly detained, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

In January, the UK-based human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website] accused the Obama administration of suppressing information [JURIST report] relating to the investigation of the suicides and urged further inquiries. The statement came after former guards at the prison told Harper's Magazine that the three detainees experienced intense interrogations [Harper's report] in a remote area of the base just hours before the apparent suicide. According to the article, military personnel were instructed by a commanding officer that the media would be told that the deaths were suicides. The Obama administration issued a statement [Reuters report] indicating that it took the matter seriously and found no evidence of wrongdoing during its investigation. A 2008 investigation conducted by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website] concluded [JURIST report] that the cause of death was suicide.



 

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