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RICHMOND, Va. — The American Civil Liberties Union today appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit against current and former government officials for their roles in the unlawful detention and torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla. The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ruled in February that the defendants, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were entitled to "qualified immunity" for their roles in the arbitrary detention and brutal abuse of Padilla because no "clearly established" law prohibited the torture of an American citizen designated an "enemy combatant" by the executive branch. Today the ACLU is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reinstate the case.
"The defendants in this case seized Jose Padilla from a civilian jail and hid him away in a military brig precisely to keep the courts from interfering with the terrible things they were doing to him. By granting the defendants legal immunity for their cruel acts, the district court vindicated their deliberate efforts to circumvent the Constitution," said Ben Wizner, litigation director of the ACLU National Security Project. "If the law does not protect Jose Padilla — an American citizen arrested on American soil and tortured in an American prison — it protects no one."
Padilla was taken from a U.S. jail in 2002 by military agents, declared an "enemy combatant" and secretly transported to a military brig in South Carolina. He was imprisoned without charge for nearly four years, subjected to extreme abuse and was unable to communicate with his lawyers or family for two years. The illegal treatment included forcing Padilla into stress positions for hours on end, punching him, depriving him of sleep and threatening him with further torture and death.
In February 2007, Padilla filed a lawsuit against Rumsfeld, Catherine Hanft, William Haynes II, Lowell Jacoby, Melanie Marr and Paul Wolfowitz for their role in his unlawful detention and abuse. Attorneys on the case are Wizner and Alex Abdo of the ACLU; Jonathan Frieman, Hope Metcalf and Tahlia Townsend of the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School; and Michael O’Connell of the law firm Stirling & O’Connell.
More information about the case is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/padilla-v-rumsfeld