Court rules former top US officials may be held liable for abuse of 9/11 detainees News
Court rules former top US officials may be held liable for abuse of 9/11 detainees

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a group of former top US officials may be held liable for the abuse of hundreds of detainees held for minor immigration violations after the events of September 11 [JURIST backgrounder]. In a 2-1 ruling the court ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft [BBC profile], former FBI director Robert Mueller [official profile] and the former head of an immigration agency may have gone too far in attempting to find the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, violating the Constitution in the process:

Detaining individuals as if they were terrorists, in the most restrictive conditions of confinement available, simply because these individuals were, or appeared to be, Arab or Muslim exceeds those limits… It might well be that national security concerns motivated the defendants to take action, but that is of little solace to those who felt the brunt of that decision. The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy.

The abuse was detailed in a justice department inspector general report [document, PDF] noting that detainees were subject to strip searches, beatings, broken bones and verbal abuse.

Allegations of prisoner abuse and torture [JURIST backgrounder] have been levied against the department and its contractors for several years. In March a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled [JURIST report] that the DOD must release photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last July the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the district court erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction [JURIST report] over a case of alleged torture in the Abu Ghraib prison because the alleged abuses occurred in Iraq. In 2013 a military contractor that was accused of conspiring to torture detainees in a lawsuit by former detainees of Abu Ghraib has paid $5.28 million to former detainees [JURIST report] held at the prison and other US detention centers in Iraq. A 14-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit ruled 12-2 in 2012 that the earlier dismissal of lawsuits against two Abu Ghraib contractors on the grounds that they have immunity as government contractors was premature [JURIST reports].