U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee has issued a sweeping victory for the Obama Administration and its contractors in seeking to bar any recourse for people injured or killed in U.S. camps or prisons like Abu Ghraib. Lee dismissed a lawsuit detailing well-supported accounts of abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison — holding that the injured parties could not use U.S. courts to seek judicial review and relief for the abuse. He closed the door to the U.S. judicial system to four Iraqi plaintiffs under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) as well as one plaintiff who was deemed as barred under Iraqi law.
Lee took the narrowest possible reading of the law to bar the claims. He relied on the decision of Chief Justice John Roberts Lee in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. where the Court ruled that certain international claims could not be heard under the Alien Tort Statute. International law violations occurring on U.S. territory are covered by the law. However, Roberts left open the door to violations abroad if they “touch and concern” U.S. territory “with sufficient force.” The Plaintiffs argued that the U.S. had set up these camps abroad to shield them from review and that the prisons were in fact U.S. facilities. Lee took a literal meaning of territory and held that the “plaintiffs’ ATS claims do not allege that any violations occurred in the United States or any of its territories. Therefore, on these facts, the court holds that Kiobel’s bar against extraterritorial application of the ATS governs.”
Before the ruling, the Obama Administration was preventing key witnesses from entering the country to testify against its contractors in a full-court press to avoid judicial review.
The Lee ruling illustrates the hypocrisy of the United States in proclaiming our government as committed to the rule of law while denying review of the most egregious abuses by our government and its contractors. It also reflects the Obama Administration continue scorched earth approach to public interest litigation seeking review of the actions of the government from warrantless surveillance to torture to prison abuse. President Obama has made clear that his preferred court and form of transparency is the secret FISA court with secret rulings, rubber stamp approvals, and no adversarial process.
The Lee opinion establishes that there is literally no recourse or justice to be found in U.S. courts for some of the most abused victims of our government. Unfortunately, few members of Congress have the courage to seek a legislative correction of the law. Once again, Democrats are silent in the face of the Obama Administration’s successful effort to close our courts to these litigants. The ruling will only encourage the White House to continue to shift operations just over our border to create a legal black hole in which virtually any abuse can be shielded from judicial review under the Act.
Source: Washington Post