October 5, 2009, New York – Last night, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed papers with the D.C. District Court challenging the government’s claim that no federal court has the power to hear claims of abuse at Guantánamo. The challenge came in response to the government’s effort to dismiss claims on behalf of two men found dead at the base in 2006, in the case Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld. The families of the men filed the case in January seeking accountability for the wrongful deaths of their sons.
CCR attorneys say this is essentially the second half of the landmark Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush, challenging the court-stripping provision of the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA), but this time addressing treatment and conditions claims rather than habeas corpus. Specifically, Al-Zahrani is the first challenge to the constitutionality of a provision of the MCA that seeks to bar federal courts from considering “any other” claim by a detainee challenging “any aspect of … detention, transfer, treatment, or conditions of confinement,” which the government argues remains in effect even after Boumediene.
Said CCR Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, “The Supreme Court has ruled three times that Guantánamo is not beyond the reach of the law, yet the government is claiming, in 2009, that the base is still a legal black hole and what happens at Guantánamo stays at Guantánamo.”
In June, a sixth man died at the base, Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, also known as Al Hanashi, a 31-year-old Yemeni who had been detained at Guantánamo Bay since 2002.
CCR represents the families of Yasser Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia and Salah Al-Salami of Yemen, two men who were reportedly found dead along with a third detainee, Mani Al-Utaybi of Saudi Arabia, in their cells at Guantanamo on June 10, 2006. At the time of their deaths, Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami had been detained incommunicado for more than four years without charge. In letters found following their deaths, the men described their conditions and abuse, including being beaten by teams of military police known as the “Extreme Reaction Force,” deprived of sleep for up to 30 days at a time, subjected to desecration of the Qur’an and forced shaving, and denied necessary medical care. Al-Zahrani, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, wrote of the “continuous oppression” of being isolated in a small cell each day and prohibited human contact.
“We have extensive documentation of the abuse and torture of many of our clients, both released men and men still being held in inhuman conditions at Guantánamo,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. “They and their families must have a way to seek justice and hold the officials responsible for their treatment accountable to our laws and our system of justice. If Guantánamo remains a black hole under President Obama, all his promises of transparency and an end to lawlessness are worthless.”
For more information and case documents, visit our Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld Case Overview Page.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for over six years and has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men detained there. CCR also works with men who were formerly detained and their families to seek justice and accountability for the abuses suffered during their imprisonment.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.