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U.S. court rejects former Guantanamo detainee's damages claim

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former detainee at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has failed to persuade a federal appeals court to let him sue the U.S. government for damages stemming from his treatment during seven years of detention.

In a ruling on Friday, Judge Karen Henderson conceded that the outcome may constitute "rough justice" for Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al Janko, a Syrian who says he was tortured and suffered physical and psychological degradation at Guantanamo from 2002 to 2009 after being detained in Afghanistan in 2001.

Writing for a three-judge panel on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Henderson said that based on what Congress has directed, courts do not have the authority to hear lawsuits like the one filed by Janko.

Janko was released from Guantanamo in October 2009 after a successful legal challenge to his detention. Prior to his detention by U.S. forces, Janko had been imprisoned and tortured by the then-Taliban-led Afghan government as a suspected U.S. spy.

Janko filed his lawsuit against the U.S. government in 2010, seeking damages for the injuries he says he sustained.

Writing for the court, Henderson said that the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006, stripped the courts of the authority to hear a case like Janko's.

"The Congress has communicated its directive in unmistakable language and we must obey," she wrote.

"The Constitution, subject to certain limitations, leaves exclusively to the Congress questions of fairness, justice, and the soundness of policy in the allocation of our jurisdiction," Henderson said.

The United States opened the Guantanamo detention facility in 2002 to hold what it described as foreign terrorism suspects. The treatment of detainees there has drawn international criticism.

(Editing by Will Dunham and Steve Orlofsky)

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