US citizen and convicted terrorist Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive], represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website], Wednesday appealed [brief, PDF] the dismissal of his lawsuit against government officials over his detention in a military prison. The ACLU filed the appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] arguing that he has a valid Bivens action against the government officials responsible for his alleged unlawful detention, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Padilla's lawsuit was dismissed [JURIST report] by a judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] last February who ruled that the government officials had qualified immunity because they did not violate any "clearly established" law and that "special factors" precluded a Bivens action. Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 and detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] before eventually being transferred to civilian authority. He claims that his detention as an enemy combatant was unlawful and that he was subjected to torture, denied communication with his family or lawyers, denied ability to practice his religion, and denied appropriate medical care. His appeal argues that in holding the Bivens action was not valid that "the district court effectively held that Defendants were above the law and Plaintiffs were beneath it." The appeal further argues that there is clear evidence to support a Bivens action and that the "special factors" cited by the District Court are unprecedented. Ben Wizner of the ACLU National Security Project in announcing [press release] the appeal said:
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. 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.Some of the other government officials named as defendants in their official capacity include former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Though Padilla's lawsuit against Rumsfeld and the others was dismissed by a South Carolina judge, a federal judge in San Francisco reached the opposite conclusion in June 2009 when he allowed a lawsuit filed [JURIST reports] by Padilla to move forward against University of California Berkeley law professor John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive], the author of controversial US government memos arguing that detained enemy combatants could be denied Geneva Conventions protections against torture. The suit alleges that Yoo's memos, written while he was a senior lawyer in the US Justice Department, helped set the Bush administration's policy that terrorism detainees are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. Padilla was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison [JURIST report], along with Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifadh Wael Jayyousi, on charges of conspiracy to commit illegal violent acts outside the US, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing material support to terrorists.