Sympathy but no Relief in Gitmo Torture Case

     (CN) – A man freed from Guantanamo Bay after the confession he gave at age 15 was deemed coerced cannot sue his captors for torture, a federal judge ruled.
     “While this court shares plaintiff’s condemnation of the treatment and the conditions that he was subjected to in Guantanamo and agrees that such conduct is contrary ‘to fundamental American values of justice,’ it is simply not correct to argue that it is within this Court’s power to create a remedy for what happened there,” U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle said Wednesday, dismissing the complaint.
     Mohammad Jawad was detained for nearly seven years at Guantanamo Bay before Huvelle ordered his release in 2009, finding the case against him “riddled with holes.”
     Afghani forces captured Jawad on charges that he tossed a grenade in Kabul in 2002 that injured two U.S. servicemen and their Afghan interpreter. He was approximately 15 years old.
     Abused in an Afghani prison and forced to sign a confession written in a language he could not read, Jawad was then transferred to U.S. custody, where he was deprived of food and sleep, strip-searched, and told he would never see his family again unless he admitted responsibility for the attack.
     Jawad also claims he was “made to hold a water bottle which he was told was a bomb that could explode at any moment.”
     At Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. quickly found Jawad of no intelligence value. But he was still “subjected to over 60 interrogations,” including “excessive cold, loud noise, beatings, pepper-spray, and being shackled for prolonged periods,” according to the complaint.
     Jawad was also subjected to a sleep-deprivation regimen called the “frequent flyer program,” which consisted in repeatedly moving a detainee from one cell to another, so that he would never get more than three hours of sleep at a time.
     Jawad says he was subjected to the frequent flyer program for two weeks in May 2004, and it was meant to be a “form of punishment” for detainees.
     Since the U.S. attorney general has certified that all individual named defendants to this case were acting within the scope of their employment, however, the government contended that they are thus covered by immunity.
     Jawad failed to sway the court that torture falls outside the scope of government employment.
     “Plaintiff concedes that the frequent flyer program was also used for disciplinary purposes,” Huvelle said. “This concession undermines plaintiff’s argument that the frequent flyer program was conducted in contravention of orders by rogue officials.”
     Jawad can thus sue only the United States, but “courts in this circuit have consistently held that the foreign country exception [of the FTCA] encompasses claims arising from injuries sustained on U.S. installations in Afghanistan and Guantanamo,” according to the decision.
     Huvelle made the same ruling in a similar case five years ago, 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 wrote, quoting its 1985 opinion in Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan.

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