Federal judge denies rehearing in Guantanamo wrongful death suit

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday denied [order, PDF] a motion for reconsideration on claims of unlawful treatment and wrongful death brought by the families of two former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. The two men, Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, were reported to have hanged themselves [JURIST report] in July 2006. The families filed the motion for reconsideration after eye witness accounts from soldiers suggested the men died while being tortured [AFP report]. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle did not find the evidence convincing enough to grant the motion. She wrote:

Nothing in the newly-presented evidence contradicts or distinguishes the Circuit's reasoning - reasoning that gives this Court no choice but to conclude that "the special needs of foreign affairs must stay our hand in the creation of damage remedies against military and foreign policy officials for allegedly unconstitutional treatment of foreign subjects causing injury abroad ..." Nor have plaintiffs demonstrated how additional discovery will distinguish this case from Rasul II such the Court can evade the Circuit's clear holding.
Huvelle added that the question before the court is not whether the allegations are true, but rather who should decide the remedy. According to precedent, the judge determined that Congress must decide if a remedy is appropriate.

Huvelle ruled [JURIST report] in February that the claims brought on behalf of the two detainees were barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF]. The court also found that, since the two men were properly detained, it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. 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.

 

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