Employing the same strategy used by opponents of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, 11 detainees at the US military’s Guantanamo Bay prison launched a lawsuit against Trump on Thursday, claiming they are being illegally detained just because they’re Muslims.
Emboldened by the Obama administration’s previous stance that the 41 detainees in “Gitmo” should still face status reviews or be tried by military tribunals, the detainees cited Trump’s tweets and other comments expressing anti-Islam sentiments as evidence that they’re victims and should be released.
“The president’s opposition to prisoner releases from Guantanamo tracks other indiscriminate policy initiatives of his – which have been struck down by the courts – including the iterative bans on travel to the United States from certain majority-Muslim countries and the ban on transgendered Americans serving in the armed forces,” the suit said. “His stance on Guantanamo calls for no less searching judicial scrutiny.”
The suit was filed in federal court in Washington on the 16th anniversary of the establishment of the Guantanamo facility. It demanded the prisoners be granted habeas corpus rights to be charged or released. Some of the detainees have been held there since 2002.
According to the lawsuit, Trump’s administration has suggested that it does not intend to ever release them, in violation of US and international law.
“President Trump, in contrast to his predecessors, has declared and is carrying out his intention to keep all remaining detainees in Guantanamo, regardless of their individual circumstances – presumably even those the executive branch previously determined need no longer be detained,” the lawsuit charged. “It is a demonstration of his antipathy toward this prisoner population, all foreign-born Muslim men, and toward Muslims more broadly, of the kind courts have properly rejected in recent months.”
An independent UN human rights investigator, Nils Melzer, said Wednesday that he had information that Ammar al-Baluchi – accused of being a co-conspirator in the 9/11 attacks on the United States – was being tortured at the US Guantanamo Bay detention facility in December, despite Washington banning “enhanced interrogation techniques” almost 10 years ago.
“His torture and ill-treatment are reported to continue,” a statement from the UN human rights office said, without giving details of the source of Melzer’s information.
“In addition to the long-term effects of past torture, noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention,” it said.
Major Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, said the allegation was not true.
A Trump tweet is at the heart of the latest legal challenge filed over Guantánamo Bay detentions — a new petition was filed today, Gitmo’s 16th anniversary, on behalf of 11 detainees https://t.co/rG3t4HSjNZ pic.twitter.com/wq3Nv7TYr9
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) January 11, 2018
There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017