Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Law News

Clinic’s Guantanamo Bay case headed to federal court for oral argument

Oral arguments in Ameur v. Gates, the lawsuit that Willamette’s International Human Rights Clinic filed against several former and current U.S. officials for their treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainee Mammar Ameur, are scheduled in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia on April 12.

At issue is whether the government officials involved in Ameur’s detention and alleged torture were acting within the scope of their employment. That would determine whether they violated international law under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows U.S. courts to hear human rights cases brought by non-U.S. citizens. Also at issue is whether Mr. Ameur has a right to bring claims for violation of the U.S. Constitution, and also whether those government officials are entitled to qualified immunity under the U.S. Constitution for these claims.

Willamette students helped draft the complaint and briefs in this case and in a similar one, Hamas vs. Gates, said International Human Rights Clinic Director Gwynne Skinner. Of the handful of lawsuits like these, only Willamette’s have survived.

Ameur, an Algerian native, was a refugee living with his wife and children in Pakistan when he was wrongfully taken from his home in July 2002 during a raid by Pakistani officials who initially came for his neighbor, according to a lawsuit he filed against several U.S. officials involved in his taking, detention, and treatment. Ameur was put in a Pakistani prison, transferred to Bagram where he was tortured, and then transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, isolated for long periods of time and subjected to inhumane treatment, the lawsuit says. He was cleared to return to Algeria in 2005 by the government, but neither he nor his lawyer were notified. He was released in 2008 and never charged with a crime.

Hamas v. Gates, a similar case brought by the Clinic involving the detention of Sudanese citizen Adel Hamad, is awaiting oral argument before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Professor Gwynne Skinner retained as expert to the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

Professor Gwynne Skinner, director of Willamette’s International Human Rights Clinic and an expert on access to remedies for human rights violations was asked to be an expert for an organization that promotes corporate accountability for human rights abuses around the globe.

Members of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and EarthRights International. The group highlights cases where redress for human rights violations is restricted and issues reports on how nations are using their regulatory authority to mandate due diligence for human rights in areas such as environmental protection and workplace health and safety.

Professor Skinner has litigated cases involving corporate complicity for human rights and has written academic articles on the topic. As an expert for  ICAR, Skinner will contribute to a forthcoming report on barriers to people seeking remedies after being harmed by corporate complicity in human rights violations. She also will recommend ways to ensure victims have access to remedies for such abuses.