Federal judge dismisses Padilla torture suit

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] on Thursday dismissed [order, PDF] a lawsuit filed by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive], ruling that he has no right to sue for constitutional violations. Padilla alleged he was isolated and tortured while being detained on a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. US District Judge Richard Gerge ruled that the defendants, including US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive], are immune from suit, finding Padilla "failed to allege facts" sufficient to establish standing to seek declaratory and injunctive relief and that allowing the trial to proceed further would cause a spectacle:

A trial on the merits would be an international spectacle with Padilla, a convicted terrorist, summoning America's present and former leaders to a federal courthouse to answer his charges. This massive litigation would have been authorized not by a Congressionally established statutory cause of action, but by a court implying an action from the face of the American Constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized the ruling [press release], calling it "troubling" and a "blow to the rule of law" and demanding that the right to be free from torture be protected.

A federal judge in San Francisco reached the opposite conclusion in June 2009 when he allowed a lawsuit filed [JURIST reports] by Padilla to move forward against University of California Berkeley law professor John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive], the author of controversial US government memos arguing that detained enemy combatants could be denied Geneva Conventions protections against torture. The suit alleges that Yoo's memos, written while he was a senior lawyer in the US Justice Department, helped set the Bush administration's policy that terrorism detainees are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. Padilla was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison [JURIST report], along with Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifadh Wael Jayyousi, on charges of conspiracy to commit illegal violent acts outside the US, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing material support to terrorists. Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive].

 

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