Gitmo Detainee's Fathers' Case Dismissed by Federal Court

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 19, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On Wednesday, a Washington D.C. Federal District Court dismissed all claims by the fathers of two Guantanamo detainees who hung themselves. According to the report by the Courthouse News Service, the fathers of Yasser Al-Zahrani, Jr., a Saudi Arabian citizen, and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami Jr., a Yemeni citizen, brought claims against the U.S. Government for alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. The plaintiffs had sought punitive damages for physical and emotional injury, and loss of earnings, family relations, and medical expenses.

The CNS reports that according to the plaintiffs' claims, during tribunal review hearings held in 2004, their sons were deemed to be enemy combatants and they were then detained at the Guantanamo Bay facility where they allege their sons were physically and mentally abused. In her decision, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle found that her court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Despite arguments by the plaintiffs that Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush gave federal courts jurisdiction over Guantanamo cases, Judge Huvelle agreed with the defendant's argument that the Military Commissions Act prohibited her from hearing the case.

According to the CNS, the decision goes on to hold that even if the judge had agreed her court did have jurisdiction, there were no violations of the plaintiffs' rights under any of the constitutional, alien tort, or federal tort claims. Judge Huvelle decided there was "no remedy for alleged constitutional violations based on the D.C. Circuit's ruling in Rasul v. Rumsfeld," which held that judges should "steer clear" of cases involving treatment of Guantanamo detainees.

The judge also dismissed plaintiffs' alien tort claims agreeing with defendants that the officials involved had been acting within the scope of their duties while detaining and interrogating Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami. Finally, the judge dismissed the federal tort claims, finding the protection of sovereign immunity applied at the facility where the detainees were held, as the Supreme Court has ruled Cuba maintains sovereignty over Guantanamo. 

The judge granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case.

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