Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Rendition case tests FBI immunity

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

Twenty-four-year-old Amir Meshal, the son of Muslim immigrants from Egypt, was a lifelong resident of New Jersey when, after living briefly in Cairo with extended family members, in 2006 he decided to go to Somalia to study Islam and experience living under Islamic law. The country appeared to have stabilized and a new Islamic government was on good terms with the United States.

But Somalia wasn’t as stable as Meshal had thought, and as violence erupted there again in January 2007, Meshal fled, along with many Somali civilians. He was arrested in a joint U.S.-Kenyan-Ethiopian operation along the border of Kenya.

During the next four months, Meshal says, he was detained and interrogated in three different African countries without charge, denied the right to speak to a lawyer or family member, and refused the right to even appear before a judicial officer. Although a lifelong U.S. citizen with two U.S. citizen parents, Meshal was repeatedly threatened with torture, rendition to another country where he would be tortured, and forced disappearance. And he believes that U.S. officials, who interrogated him more than 30 times during this process, directed his arrest and treatment.

Those claims are the subject of a new lawsuit being filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington. Although it’s not the first lawsuit against U.S. officials seeking damages for torture and other mistreatment abroad, Meshal is only the second U.S. citizen to sue for U.S.-sponsored torture. That and a few other distinctive facts in this case may give him some advantages over those that have been dismissed.

“This is a U.S. citizen who was caught in hostilities abroad, and instead of helping him return, U.S. officials abused him and mistreated him and never charged him with a crime,” said Nusrat Choudhury, one of the lead lawyers from the ACLU representing Meshal. “Should they be allowed to do that without helping a U.S. citizen get home, and instead, denying him access to lawyers?”

That’s the question that will face judges in this case. In the past, the government has managed to convince courts to dismiss torture victims’ cases by saying that government officials are entitled to qualified immunity, or that the case would reveal state secrets, or that courts should not imply a right to sue government officials for constitutional violations when the case involves national security and foreign policy. But will courts be so willing to dismiss a case brought by a U.S. citizen, born to U.S. citizen parents, allegedly tortured directly by U.S. officials, and who has never even been charged with doing anything wrong?

American University Law Professor Stephen Vladeck, an expert on constitutional and national security law, says that although doctrinally the cases are not very different, the fact that Meshal is a U.S. citizen “practically, could make a difference to judges,” he said. “It would just highlight how wrong those other decisions are,” he said.

One of those decisions is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2009 at 11:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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