The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Monday affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit against current and former government officials for their alleged roles in the detention and torture of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen and convicted terrorist.
Padilla previously sued former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials over his alleged torture at an American naval base, but a district court judge granted the latter immunity and dismissed the case, Padilla v. Rumsfeld .
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had fought to reinstated the case, arguing that Padilla was unlawfully imprisoned without trial for four years, prevented from communicating with his lawyers and subjected to numerous abuses.
“Today is a sad day for the rule of law and for those who believe that the courts should protect American citizens from torture by their own government,” said ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner, who argued the appeal in court.
“By dismissing this lawsuit, the appeals court handed the government a blank check to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. This impunity is not only anathema to a democracy governed by laws, but contrary to history’s lesson that in times of fear our values are a strength, not a hindrance.”
Padilla was arrested as an “enemy combatant” in May of 2002 after returning to the U.S. from Egypt. He was detained at a U.S. navy prison in South Carolina for nearly four years without charge.
According to his defense team, while in military custody Padilla was subjected to sleep deprivation, threats of execution, exposure to noxious fumes and extreme temperatures, and was forced stand in uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time.
Padilla was then transferred to the civilian justice system, where he was sentenced to 17 years in jail in 2007 for aiding a U.S.-based al Qaeda cell.
The charges said the al Qaeda cell had conspired to murder and kidnap people in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia and other countries from 1993 to 2001.