Protesters condemn CIA torture. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Three victims of CIA torture will have their landmark case proceed in a US court. The matter opened on Friday with a US federal judge hearing a motion from the defendants to dismiss the case.
The three plaintiffs are Tanzanian Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Libyan Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Afghani Gul Rahman.
They were subjected to brutal CIA treatment under the agency’s enhanced interrogation program including beatings, water torture, solitary confinement, and sleep deprivation over the years that they were held. Rahman froze to death while detained at a CIA black site. His family is pursuing the case on his behalf.
None of the men were ever charged with a crime or accused of being members of al-Qaeda.
Salim and Ben Soud continue to suffer physically and psychologically as a result of the torture they endured. They have not received any compensation from the US government.
The plaintiffs are arguing that two psychologists, working under contract to the CIA, are liable and should face punishment. James Elmer Mitchell and John Jessen were hired by the CIA to design the agency’s torture program. The lawsuit alleges that this amounts to a “joint criminal enterprise” and that the torture constitutes war crimes.
On Friday, lawyers for the two defendants argued that the case ought to be dismissed as the psychologists did not commit the acts they are accused of. The plaintiffs’ counsel rebutted stating that the psychologists were “deeply involved” in the torture program and were paid for their work.
The judge dismissed the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.
This is the first case to proceed through the court system. Previously, the US Department of Justice has stopped cases from going forward on the grounds that a legal case would reveal classified information. In 2012, the Department of Justice declared that CIA officials involved in the program have immunity from prosecution and would not face criminal charges.
The argument that classified material must be protected no longer bears up as an executive summary of the Senate report on torture was released on December 9, 2014. The full report has not been declassified.
The executive summary, which the CIA tried to block from being published, reveals the torture methods employed by the CIA to obtain information from detainees after the 9/11 terror attacks.
“For America, it’s pretty critical that we finally have a hearing and some accountability for torture, otherwise we can never turn the page on it,” said Dror Ladin, lawyer for the three victims, speaking in court. “We run the very real risk of going down that path again.”