Sunday, October 11, 2015

Court Win Translates to Court Change

New York Times article, "Pakistani, Held in Iraq, Wins a Round in Court," by Katrin Bennhold discusses the recent success in a British court for an alleged terrorist suspect to sue the British government for inhumane treatment, otherwise known as torture. In this particular court case, the plaintiff, Yunus Rahmatullah, is a Pakastani citizen. He was originally detained in Iraq during a raid of his apartment by the British armed forces. Once captured, he was taken to Camp Nama and Abu Ghraib prison before being sent to a military base in Afghanistan. Rahmatullah claimed that he was first tortured by the British. Then, he was handed off to U.S. military personnel, who performed similar acts of cruelty.  In May 2014, he was officially released. Now, he is set on exposing his extraordinary rendition and its damaging consequences.
This occurrence of events sounds quite familiar much like past court cases involving El Masri, Mohammed, and their respective defendants, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the UK. The plaintiff, a former prisoner charged with terrorism or association to it, goes against the state or certain state officials to unmask the reality of torture. From this court ruling, Rahmatullah has been granted the chance for redress and a formal investigation into the committed acts of torture during his imprisonment. The British government has been attempting to reverse the court decision and any following action through used excuses, specifically noting the potential harm towards relations with the U.S.
Despite their best efforts, the British government is at a loss. Their determination has no effect—investigations must be pursued on both American and British sides to uncover Ramahtullah's allegations of torture. This relates to the reading, Uncloaking Secrecy: International Human Rights Law in Terrorism Cases, as the UK and U.S. each disguise their illegal actions citing public interest immunity and state secret privilege, respectively. In Ramahtullah's case, the UK cannot defend themselves from disclosing any perceived sensitive information. The court is demanding transparency. The UK can no longer hide behind the U.S. and its tightly adhered state secret privilege that has rendered several torture victims in circuitous appeal proceedings.
With a sympathetic streak for former prisoners of either extraordinary rendition or torture, this court ruling has a significant effect on three other comparable cases, where the victims are able to sue specific parties that played a role in their imprisonment and subsequent treatment. Yet, controversy and pessimism still exists. Very few think that the U.S. will change its current assessment of revealing illicit activities. As stated in the article, the Obama administration is disinclined to acknowledge the wrongdoings of the Bush administration. Instead, they keep tossing these torture cases aside. Even with the UK court system trying to hold the government responsible, the U.S. refuses to hold its officials accountable for their illegal acts. It raises the question of why the U.S. seems to view itself as a higher entity than other states? Will legitimate loopholes eventually be found in the secret state privilege doctrine and be admissible in future court cases and proceedings? While the UK government has been cooperative with its courts, their legality was compromised. Reportedly, in another case, lawyer client confidentiality had been breached. So called spies neglected the steadfast rule, listening in on private conversations. This brings further questioning of whether states are truly concerned about the threat of disrupting national security versus maintaining their justifications for torturing alleged terrorists. How are basic human rights being disregarded so nonchalantly?
Although there are still many facets of controversy and layers of issues being raised around these cases, this successful court ruling is one step forward for similar victims' cases. The future of torture victims seeking reparations is still far from reach, but there is slow and sure progress being made in courts. If one court sets a precedent, other courts should follow. 

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