For Immediate Release: May 16, 2011
Washington, D.C. — Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Mohamed, et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., effectively closing the court house doors to alleged victims of torture. Human Rights First, along with 25 groups and individuals, call on Attorney General Holder to refer the allegations raised in the Jeppesen case and other cases challenging the government’s extraordinary rendition program in which the government invoked the state secrets privilege to the relevant Inspector General Offices for investigation and issue a public report of its findings.
Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing, is reported to have worked with the Bush Administration to carry out the extraordinary renditions of five men who were allegedly kidnapped and transferred to foreign countries where they allege they were interrogated under torture. By its action today, the Court lets stand the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to dismiss the case before any evidence – even public records – could be produced on the grounds that doing so would expose states secrets and cause significant harm to national security.
While the Obama administration rightfully banned the use of torture, to the dismay and disappointment of many, it continued the Bush administration’s policy of invoking the “states secrets” doctrine to block private lawsuits alleging torture. Victims of torture are thereby denied an enforceable right to an effective remedy as required by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) – treaties to which the United States is bound.
Human Rights First has called for legislative reform of the state secrets privilege in previous publications available here and recently sent a letter to the Department of Justice along with 25 groups and individuals urging Attorney General Holder to call for an inspector general investigation into the Executive’s use of extraordinary rendition pursuant to its September 23, 2009 states secret policy.
In that policy, the Department of Justice provided that “whenever there are credible allegations of government wrongdoing in a case, but the assertion of states secrets privilege might preclude the case from moving forward,” the Department of Justice will refer those allegations to the appropriate Inspector General offices for further investigation.
While an Inspector General investigation cannot displace civil litigation of valid claims or meet the U.S.’s treaty obligations to provide an effective/enforceable remedy, an investigation and public accounting by the Inspector General can uncover government wrongdoing and recommend corrective action to prevent similar abusive practices from occurring in the future. The Attorney General should implement its own policy and refer the allegations raised in the Jeppesen case, as well as other cases thrown out of court on state secrets grounds, to the relevant Offices of the Inspector Generals for investigation. The findings of those investigations should be made public. To do otherwise, would gut the policy of meaning and undermine its objective to “provide greater accountability and reliability in the invocation of the state secrets privilege.”
The initial letter addressed to Attorney General Holder can be found here.
The May 2011 response to the Supreme Court ruling can be found here.