Freed Gitmo Prisoner Cannot Sue for Torture
(CN) - A man who won his freedom after seven years at Guantanamo Bay cannot seek damages for the torture he claims to have suffered there, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak Al Janko, a member of the so-called Kandahar Five, claimed that various federal government officials violated his civil rights and the Alien Tort Statute by subjecting him to seven years of torture that rivaled the treatment he experienced imprisoned in a Taliban jail.
The Taliban had allegedly tortured and detained Janko after the Syrian citizen tried to leave a combat training camp near Kandahar. They labeled him an American spy and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, but he briefly won freedom when U.S. forces invaded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Afghan government liberated the prison.
Janko said he was then labeled a jihadist by U.S. officials and transferred to Guantanamo Bay based on an allegedly coerced taped confession that he had given the Taliban.
At Guantanamo, U.S. officials used brutal torture methods, including "a combination of abusive techniques such as striking his forehead, threatening to remove his fingernails, sleep deprivation, exposure to very cold temperatures, exercise to exhaustion through sit-ups, push-ups, and running in chains, stress positions for hours at a time, use of police dogs, and rough treatment prior to interrogation sessions," according to the detainee's 2010 federal complaint .
The torture allegedly coerced Janko into falsely confessing to al-Qaida affiliation.
Finding that the government failed to prove Janko was an enemy combatant, a federal judge ordered him released in 2009.
But the same judge dismissed Janko's civil action for damages because the Military Commissions Act (MCA) strips the judicial system of jurisdiction to hear such allegations.
The act states: "No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit affirmed Friday.
"Under the MCA, Congress abandoned the independent, judicial propriety-of-detention determination in favor of a non-judicial determination made by the same entity that detains the alien (the United States)," Judge Karen Henderson wrote for the court.
While Janko was found not to be an enemy combatant, this fact "makes no constitutional difference," because the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.
"It may very well be that to deny the appellant recovery for injuries incurred while in the United States's custody based solely on the unreviewed decision of a tribunal the Supreme Court has labeled 'closed and accusatorial' is rough justice," Henderson wrote. "But that objection is to the statute's underlying policy and not to our interpretation thereof. ... The Congress has communicated its directive in unmistakable language and we must obey."