Clinic’s Guantanamo Bay Case Headed to Federal Court for Oral Argument

by University Communications,

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.