Federal Court Rules Syrian Wrongly Imprisoned at Guantánamo Can’t Sue for 7 Years of Torture

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko

Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak Al Janko spent seven years imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay before a federal court concluded he was not a threat to the United States and should be released. But the same court rejected Janko’s lawsuit seeking damages from the U.S. government for his wrongful detainment.


Janko’s story began in Afghanistan, where the Taliban accused him of being an American spy, threw him in jail and tortured him for three months.


After 18 months of imprisonment, he was freed following the U.S. invasion in 2001. But his freedom was short-lived as the U.S. then suspected him of being an insurgent, resulting in his arrest and shipment to Guantánamo.


His detainment lasted until 2009, during which he says he was tortured by American officials.


After a federal judge ordered his release, Janko filed a lawsuit claiming the U.S. owed him money for detaining and torturing him. In his complaint, Janko said the U.S. violated his civil rights and the Alien Tort Statute.


But the same judge who freed him decided his lawsuit had no legal standing, saying the Military Commissions Act (pdf) (MCA) prevents the courts from considering such cases.


He appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. But a three-judge panel agreed with the lower court decision to dismiss.


“Under the MCA, Congress abandoned the independent, judicial propriety-of-detention determination in favor of a non-judicial determination made by the same entity that detains the alien (the United States),” Judge Karen Henderson wrote (pdf) for the court.


“It may very well be that to deny the appellant recovery for injuries incurred while in the United States's custody based solely on the unreviewed decision of a tribunal the Supreme Court has labeled ‘closed and accusatorial’ is rough justice,” Henderson wrote. “But that objection is to the statute’s underlying policy and not to our interpretation thereof. ... The Congress has communicated its directive in unmistakable language and we must obey.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Freed Gitmo Prisoner Cannot Sue for Torture (by Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service)

Federal Judge Orders Release of Syrian Man Held at Guantanamo (by Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post)

Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak Al Janko v. Robert Gates (U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia) (pdf)

Abd Al Rahim Abdul Rassak Janko (Wikipedia)

Syrian Sues after Being Tortured by Both Al-Qaeda and United States (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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