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Gitmo Detainees’ Fathers Lose Torture Lawsuit

(CN) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed a lawsuit brought by the fathers of two Guantanamo detainees who hanged themselves after months of hunger strikes. The fathers had accused U.S. officials of torturing and abusing their sons before the detainees committed suicide.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that she was barred from hearing the parents' constitutional claims due to earlier district and Supreme Court rulings.

Talal Al-Zahrani, the father of Yasser Al-Zahrani, Jr., a Saudi Arabian citizen, and Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, father of Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami Jr., a Yemeni citizen, sued the U.S. government and a host of government officials for alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The men sought punitive damages for physical and emotional injury, loss of earnings and family relations, and medical expenses.

The fathers said their sons were denied due process before they were labeled enemy combatants.

In tribunal review hearings held in 2004, Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami "were presumed to be enemy combatants, denied the right to an attorney, and denied the right to see all the evidence against them," the ruling states.

Their fathers said their sons had been subjected to "specific methods and acts of physical and psychological torture and abuse," including sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, invasive body searches, beatings, threats, inadequate medical treatment and religious abuse, such as forced shaving and desecration of the Quran.

The defendants argued that the case must be dismissed, because the court lacks jurisdiction under the Military Commissions Act.

But the fathers countered that the Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush gave federal courts jurisdiction over Guantanamo cases, and that the procedure used to label Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami as "enemy combatants" lacked due process and was therefore facially invalid.

Judge Huvelle said the plain language of the MCA "precludes this Court from hearing their claims." She refused to entertain their attack on the constitutionality of the MCA.

She also said there was no remedy for alleged constitutional violations based on the D.C. Circuit's ruling in Rasul v. Rumsfeld, which found that judges should steer clear of cases involving Guantanamo detainee treatment.

"Judicial involvement in this delicate area could undermine ... military and diplomatic efforts and lead to 'embarrassment of our government abroad,'" the D.C. Circuit had written, quoting its 1985 opinion in Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan.

Judge Huvelle next dismissed the alien tort claims against the individual defendants, accepting the government's claim that the officials had been acting within the scope of their employment when they detained and interrogated Guantanamo detainees.

On the federal tort claims, Huvelle concluded that "all of plaintiffs' non-constitutional claims are barred by the FTCA's express exception to its waiver of sovereign immunity for 'any claim arising in a foreign country.'"

She rejected the plaintiffs' claim that the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, where the alleged abuse occurred, is not technically a foreign country. The Supreme Court has made clear that Cuba maintains sovereignty over Guantanamo, Huvelle ruled.

The judge granted the defendants' motions to dismiss.

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