Civil Suits the Only Way

From Holden:

The Republican Congress will not do it (hell, I’m not convinced that a Democratically-controlled Congress would), the only way to rein in the Bush Assministration is through civil suits.

Human rights organizations that have succeeded in changing the legal landscape for detainees at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, say they are now pursuing the possibility of bringing lawsuits on behalf of some of the terrorism suspects held in secret C.I.A. jails throughout the world.

The lawyers say they believe that what was once was a remote possibility — challenging the detentions in the secret C.I.A. prison system in federal court — has been greatly enhanced by last week’s Supreme Court ruling and the administration’s response. The court appeared to say that the minimum rights of due process of the Geneva Conventions apply to all detainees, and on Tuesday the administration, shifting course, announced that was now official policy.

Michael Ratner, the director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said Wednesday that his group was actively “investigating the possibility of bringing a case on behalf of a secret detainee through a family member.”


The administration initially tried to keep secret the system run by the C.I.A., which is believed to hold about 30 prisoners, including senior leaders of Al Qaeda like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubayda.

But the administration has since been obliged in court proceedings and elsewhere to acknowledge, by name, as many as 11 of those prisoners.

Because the prisoners, sometimes called high-value detainees, are named in court proceedings and in the official government report on the Sept. 11 attacks, lawyers have been given an opportunity to identify relatives who could speak for them. This would open the way to file a lawsuit alleging unlawful detention under the name of a relative who could claim to be the detainee’s “next friend,” a legal term that allows someone to assert rights on behalf of someone else who is unable to file a lawsuit.

Deborah Pearlstein, a lawyer with Human Rights First and a visiting scholar at Princeton University, said in an interview, “Human rights advocates for some time have been talking about how to resolve the legal status of the C.I.A.-held detainees who have been effectively ‘disappeared.’ ” She said the discussions had been given significant momentum with the Supreme Court ruling and the administration’s policy shift.