This is not unexpected, but still very dispiriting.
The Obama administration argued in court documents filed today that four former detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp who have sued over their treatment have no constitutional rights.
The suit was brought by four British men who say they were beaten, shackled in painful stress positions, threatened by dogs and subjected to extreme medical care during their time in the lockup at the US naval base in Cuba.
They also say they were harassed while practicing their religion, including forced shaving of their beards, banning or interrupting their prayers, denying them prayer mats and copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, and throwing a copy of the Qur’an in a toilet.
Daphne Eviatar briefly summarized the case, Rasul vs. Rumsfeld, in the Washington Independent.
According to their legal complaint, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed claim they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, the Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody – apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay.
According to Eviatar, the case, described in detail at the Center for Constitutional Rights, bears a close resemblance to Jose Padilla’s lawsuit against former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, in which the Obama Justice Department is defending John Yoo on truly questionable moral and ethical grounds.
Here is what Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights had to say about both of these cases.
“The more I think about it, representing Yoo puts the administration in a potential contradiction,” he wrote to me in an e-mail after our phone conversation. “They should not be arguing that there was not a clearly established right to be free from detention without trial, court access or abuse under the Fifth and Eighth amendments. If they do, or have, it would be a grave disappointment and justify many of the nasty Bush administration practices.”
Ratner added: “They need to get Yoo another lawyer, or better, cut him loose, as continued representation is contrary to government interests. A lawyer should represent Yoo who can take positions that they [the Obama administration] should not.”
Likewise with Donald Rumsfeld, added Ratner.
Why is the Obama administration defending John Yoo and Donald Rumsfeld? It’s beyond disgusting. As an American I’m deeply ashamed that the new administration is apparently going to continue the Bush administration policy of pretending that what happened wasn’t torture and arguing that administration officials must be protected from prosecution even in contravention of international law.
During his campaign for the presidency, as Raw story documents,
The department’s request that the Boumediene ruling not be considered in the Rumsfeld case puts the Justice Department directly at odds with statements made by President Obama during the 2008 campaign.
“Habeus corpus … is the foundation of Anglo-American law, which says very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, `Why was I grabbed?’ and say, `Maybe, you’ve got the wrong person,” said Obama at a early Sept. 2008 campaign rally where he seemed to refer to a case [like the ones discussed here].
“The reason we have that safeguard is we don’t always have the right person,” said Obama at the campaign rally. “We don’t always catch the right person. We may think this is Muhammad the terrorist. It might be Muhammad the cab driver.”
Kate Toomey, an attorney representing the detainees in Rasul vs. Rumsfeld, told Raw story:
“We had hoped that they would file something that separated them from the former administration and obviously we had hoped that they would be taking a stronger moral stance about what should be anticipated from senior officers including the Secretary of Defense on legally standing prohibitions,” Toomey said, adding, “There’s no question that the U.S. law forbids people from ordering torture. And so it’s unfortunate that they have sort of squandered an opportunity to have made that point.”
This is so sad, heartbreaking really. Two years ago, we all had such high hopes that 2008 would see the election of a Democratic President, and an opportunity to restore America’s standing in the world–to reverse the policy of the Bush administration and to restore Constitutional rights and basic civil liberaties to American citizens as well as foreign citizens detained at Guantanamo and God knows how many other foreign prisons set up by our government. But we really did get another Bush term.
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