Court Doors Shut to Guantanamo Bay Detainee Suit

Federal courts have no authority to review the damage claims of a Sudanese man held at Guantanamo Bay for four years before his release in 2007, a federal appeals court held Monday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal habeas law changes, passed in 2005, deprived the district court of jurisdiction over the case of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese citizen who was detained in Pakistan in 2002 by Pakistani security forces.  They were acting at the direction of an “unknown American official” and Hamad was transferred to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and then GuantanamoBay.

In 2005, an administrative review board decided Hamad continued to be a threat to the U.S. but also found he was eligible to be transferred to Sudan.  He was ultimately returned to Sudan in 2007 and has sued for damages claiming he was held in violation of Geneva Conventions, including degrading and inhuman conditions, subjected to torture, denied due process and forced into disappearance.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2004, established the courts had authority to review habeas petitions of Guantanamo detainees who challenged their detention.  In response, Congress passed, in 2005, a law stating courts were stripped of the authority to entertain suits by Guantanamo detainees, neither habeas petitions nor any other action against the U.S.

In 2002, the Bush Administration designated certain foreign nationals as “enemy combatants” and qualified for detention at Guantanamo.  Enemy combatant was described as someone supporting Taliban or al Qaeda forces or others engaged in hostilities against the U.S.

Judge Sandra Ikuta held that federal habeas law stripped federal courts of jurisdiction over enemy combatant claims.

The only exception to the law was to allow the D.C. Circuit to review findings of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal that an alien is properly detained as an enemy combatant.

Ikuta agreed with Hamad that the Supreme court avoided answering whether Congress completely denied him access to a federal forum to remedy potential constitutional violations.

But she wasn’t going to step into that quagmire either.

“We can likewise avoid addressing this difficult issue, because Hamad seeks only money damages, and the Constitution does not require the availability of such a remedy, even where the plaintiff’s claim is based on alleged violations of constitutional rights,” she wrote.

Ikuta, a Bush appointee, was joined by Judges Arthur Alarcon, appointed by President Carter, and Margaret McKeown, a Clinton appointee.

Case:  Hamad v. Gates, No.  12-35395

 

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