Celikgogus v. Rumsfeld & Allaithi v. Rumsfeld

At a Glance

Current Status 

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.

Date Filed: 

November 21, 2006

Co-Counsel 

Orrick LLP (San Francisco office)

Client 

Yuksel Celikgogus, Ibrahim Sen, Nuri Mert, Zakirjan Hasam, Abu Muhammad, Sami AlLaithi

Case Description 

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.”

Case Timeline

April 17, 2015

CCR filed petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court

April 17, 2015

CCR filed petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court

November 18, 2014

D.C. Circuit denies en banc petition, without dissent

November 18, 2014

D.C. Circuit denies en banc petition, without dissent

October 20, 2014

Defendants-Appellees oppose petition for rehearing en banc

October 20, 2014

Defendants-Appellees oppose petition for rehearing en banc

August 25, 2014

Plaintiffs-Appellants petition for rehearing en banc

August 25, 2014

Plaintiffs-Appellants petition for rehearing en banc

June 10, 2014

Appellate court affirms district court dismissal

June 10, 2014

Appellate court affirms district court dismissal

February 21, 2014

The case is argued

February 21, 2014

The case is argued

December 18, 2013

Plaintiffs-Appellants file appellate reply brief

December 18, 2013

Plaintiffs-Appellants file appellate reply brief

November 13, 2013

Defendants-Appellants file appellate brief

November 13, 2013

Defendants-Appellants file appellate brief

August 22, 2013

Plaintiffs appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

August 22, 2013

Plaintiffs appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

May 9, 2013

The cases are consolidated for appeal

May 9, 2013

The cases are consolidated for appeal

February 1, 2013

Both cases are dismissed

February 1, 2013

Both cases are dismissed

November 18, 2011

Judge Kennedy resigns; the cases are ultimately transferred to Chief Judge Lamberth

November 18, 2011

Judge Kennedy resigns; the cases are ultimately transferred to Chief Judge Lamberth

May 21, 2010

Government replies in support of defendants’ motions to dismiss

May 21, 2010

Government replies in support of defendants’ motions to dismiss

April 19, 2010

Plaintiffs in both cases oppose the government motions to dismiss

April 19, 2010

Plaintiffs in both cases oppose the government motions to dismiss

February 19, 2010

Government files motions to dismiss both cases

February 19, 2010

Government files motions to dismiss both cases

The government moves to dismiss in light of the D.C. Circuit decision in Rasul v. Myers, which was dismissed largely on “qualified immunity” grounds--that is, on the notion that courts had not clearly established that torture and religious abuse of Guantánamo detainees was prohibited at the time those abuses were being carried out

September 30, 2009

Allaithi complaint filed

September 30, 2009

Allaithi complaint filed

April 1, 2008

Plaintiffs in Celikgogus file a second amended complaint

April 1, 2008

Plaintiffs in Celikgogus file a second amended complaint

March 21, 2007

The complaint was amended to include three new plaintiffs and new defendants

March 21, 2007

The complaint was amended to include three new plaintiffs and new defendants

November 21, 2006

Celikgogus complaint filed

November 21, 2006

Celikgogus complaint filed