Supreme Court Revives Chance for Justice in Torture Case

The Supreme Court’s decision to revive a lawsuit brought by four British men who claim they were tortured at Guantanamo provides the plaintiffs with a chance for justice and the public with an opportunity to learn how policies that undermined American interests and tarnished our reputation came to be embraced.

The four men — Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal al-Harith — were captured in late 2001 in Afghanistan and were transferred to Guantanamo in early 2002. In March 2004, they were returned to Britain. Their lawsuit named then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military commanders. They claimed they were subjected to torture, harassed as they practiced their religion, and forced to shave their religious beards.

“This case presents the question of whether senior officials of the United States government can be held accountable … for ordering the religious humiliation and torture of Guantanamo detainees,” their lawyers said in the appeal to the Supreme Court. “This case presents the opportunity to recognize and enforce rights that are at least as basic and essential to human autonomy — the right to worship and the right not to be tortured.”

As the publicly released portions of the Senate Armed Services Committee report showed last week, the responsibility for the United States’ authorization of torture and abuse extends far beyond the low-ranking individuals who have faced punishment for their actions. “This case presents an opportunity to get to the bottom of the torture scandal so that we can put this sorry chapter behind us,” said Sharon Kelly, Campaign Manager for We Can End Torture Now.

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Published on December 16, 2008

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