At a Glance
On February 1, 2013, two years and nine months after the government’s motions to dismiss had been fully briefed, Judge Lamberth dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims. An appellate panel affirmed the dismissal below; request for en banc review was denied.
Orrick LLP (San Francisco office)
Yuksel Celikgogus, Ibrahim Sen, Nuri Mert, Zakirjan Hasam, Abu Muhammad, Sami AlLaithi
Celikgogus and Allaithi were brought against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, and dozens of others, including civilian and military personnel at Guantánamo. Both cases allege that government officials authorized and condoned torture and other mistreatment in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, the Vienna Convention, the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Federal Civil Rights Act. The suits were filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
None of the plaintiffs in Celikgogus or Allaithi has ever been a member of any terrorist group, and all were released from Guantánamo without being charged with any crime—yet all six were variously subjected to torture and other abuses including being held in solitary confinement (against the advice of military psychologists), sleep deprivation, being prevented from praying, forcible shaving, and being medicated against their will.
Three of the plaintiffs were subjected to this torture and abuse even after being found by military Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) panels not to be “enemy combatants.” One of these plaintiffs, university English professor Sami Abdulaziz Allaithi, could walk when he was brought to Guantánamo, but left in a wheelchair. Now living with family in Egypt, he remains immobilized and in great pain. Another, Abu Muhammad, is a medical doctor and Algerian refugee who was taken from his pregnant wife and five children in Pakistan in 2002, sent to Guantánamo for four years, then sent to Albania – against his will – as a refugee in 2006. The third, Zakirjan Hasam, an Uzbek refugee who fled religious persecution in Uzbekistan, was transferred to the U.S. for custody in 2002 by Afghanis, who he believes received a bounty from the U.S. government. When he was finally sent to Albania as a refugee, 23 months after the military panel’s ruling, he was sent shackled and bound to his seat. He continues to live in poverty there.
The other three plaintiffs are Turkish nationals who were released before the military even provided CSRT panels to detainees.
In dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims, the D.C. Circuit stated that the torture and religious humiliation these men endured – even after being cleared for release by the military – were incidental to the “need to maintain an orderly detention environment,” “appear[ed] to be standard for all” U.S. military detainees in Guantánamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and “was certainly foreseeable [by the government] because maintaining peace, security, and safety at a place like Guantánamo Bay is a stern and difficult business.”