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This month marks the tenth anniversary of the American prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. President Obama pledged two years ago that he would close the prison, but on New Year's Eve, he signed legislation that could actually lead to growth in the controversial prison's population. Even so, two lawsuits filed in the Northwest are pushing forward seeking damages for former detainees and their families.
Willamette University's International Human Rights Clinic has filed two civil suits against former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other U.S. government officials on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The first suit was filed in April, 2010 on behalf of Adel Hamad. Hamad is a humanitarian aid worker from Sudan who was working in Pakistan when he was taken prisoner by the Pakistani military. He was eventually sent to Guantanamo, where he was detained for more than five years. He was released in 2007 and reunited with his family in Sudan. He says while at Guantanamo, he was tortured and illegally designated as an enemy combatant.
The plaintiff in the other lawsuit, filed in October of last year, is Mammar Ameur. He was taken into custody in Pakistan at the same time as Hamad and later released from Guantanamo and returned to his native Algeria in 2008. The complaint is similar to Hamad's. Both of these civil cases were filed in the Seattle federal court because Gates owns a home in the area.
These are the only lawsuits of their kind in the country right now. Previous civil suits filed on behalf of detainees have been dismissed.
- Gwynne Skinner: Assistant professor and director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette University