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by | Jan 12, 2008 | Stress Blog | 7 comments

Judge: Detainees Not Technically ‘Persons’ Under US Law

A federal appeals court ruled Friday against four British men who contend they were systematically tortured and their religious rights abused throughout their two-year detention at Guantanamo Bay.

In a suit against ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and individual U.S. military officials, the four men argued that the defendants had engaged in criminal conduct.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 3-0 that the men should have invoked a different law when they filed their lawsuit.

“Criminal conduct is not per se outside the scope of employment,” a requirement for bringing a claim under the Alien Tort Statute, said the decision by appeals judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, an appointee of President Bush’s father.

The four men challenge the methods Rumsfeld and the military officers used, but the former detainees don’t allege that the defendants “acted as rogue officials or employees who implemented a policy of torture for reasons unrelated to the gathering of intelligence,” the court said.

“Therefore, the alleged tortious conduct was incidental to the defendants’ legitimate employment duties,” the ruling added.

The four British men also brought constitutional claims and claims under the Geneva Conventions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rejecting all of the men’s allegations, the appeals court overturned the only part of a lower court decision that hadn’t already been dismissed. That was the alleged violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Because the plaintiffs are aliens and were located outside sovereign United States territory at the time their alleged RFRA claim arose, they do not fall with the definition of ‘person,'” the court ruled. The law provides that the “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”

The ruling came on the sixth anniversary of Guantanamo Bay being used to house detainees gathered from around the world as part of the U.S. war on suspected terrorists.

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