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Ali v. Rumsfeld

Right to Redress for Victims of Torture in U.S. Overseas Military Facilities

Ali v. Rumsfeld

Right to Redress for Victims of Torture in U.S. Overseas Military Facilities


On September 20, 2010, CJA signed onto an amicus brief filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the plaintiffs who allege they were tortured and abused while detained by the U.S. in military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Each plaintiff was subsequently released without ever being charged.  In Ali v. Rumsfeld, 479 F.Supp.2d 85 (D.D.C. 2007), the district court dismissed these claims, which effectively precludes the plaintiffs from seeking redress for their injuries. 

The brief, which was authored by CJA Board member William Aceves and UVA law professor Deena Hurwitz, addresses two issues: (1) that victims of torture have a right to seek redress for their injuries; and (2) that U.S. law should be interpreted consistent with international law whenever possible. 

On June 21, 2011 the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision to dismiss the claims.  The court found that, because it was an unsettled question whether non-resident aliens detained abroad have Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights, the government actors had qualified immunity against the constitutional claims. Turning to the ATS claim, the court relied on precedent to find that the official’s actions were “incidental” to their employment.  As such, the Westfall Act required that the U.S. substitute in as defendant, and the Federal Tort Claims Act provided the governing standard.  Because plaintiffs had not exhausted their remedies under the FTCA, the court affirmed dismissal of the statutory claim.

Learn more about the case at the ACLU's website.

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