On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of two wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of two former inmates of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility in Cuba.
Yasser al-Zahrani and Salah al-Salami, of Saudi Arabia and Yemen respectively, allegedly committed suicide in 2006 while in American custody at the infamous prison. Although the cause of death is the subject of dispute in the current litigation, a report issued by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) found that the deaths were the result of suicide by hanging.
On January 7, 2009, families of the two former detainees filed a complaint in the federal district court naming as defendants the United States and more than a score of officials of the government, including Donald Rumsfeld. The suit alleges that the named government officers were responsible for subjecting the decedents to torture, arbitrary detention, and ultimately, wrongful death.
The district court dismissed the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
An appeal of that decision was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and was heard by the D.C. Appeals Court. Writing for the unanimous court, Chief Judge David B. Sentelle (a Reagan appointee) upheld the lower court’s ruling, stating that “Congress has expressly deprived the federal courts of jurisdiction over cases like the one before us.”
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