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Victims Of CIA Torture Notch Historic Victory In Legal Battle
Victims Of CIA Torture Notch Historic Victory In Legal Battle Victims Of CIA Torture Notch Historic Victory In Legal Battle

Victims Of CIA Torture Notch Historic Victory In Legal Battle

Think Progress
April 24, 2016


A lawsuit against two psychologists behind the CIA's torture program moved forward on Friday, when a judge decided he could not throw out the case.

"I don't think I have any other choice," said Senior Judge Justin Quackenbush, after rejecting the claim of the psychologists' lawyer that the two are immune from civil liability, according to the Huffington Post.

The lawsuit was first filed in a federal court in Spokane, Washington in October 2015 by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, a Tanzanian citizen, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, a Libyan citizen, and the family of Gul Rahman, an Afghan citizen who froze to death at a secret CIA prison in Kabul. All three men allege that they were subject to some of the harshest physical and psychological torture methods while in CIA custody.

Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the defendants in the case, were paid $81 million to help teach the CIA torture methods based on past experiments on dogs and were deeply involved in their implementation. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose attorneys are representing the plaintiffs, noted the pair's involvement in a statement after the decision on Friday:
The two men, who had previously worked for the U.S. military, designed the torture methods and performed illegal human experimentation on CIA prisoners to test and refine the program. They personally took part in torture sessions and oversaw the program's implementation for the CIA.

Torture methods devised by Mitchell and Jessen and inflicted on the three men include slamming them into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures and ear-splitting levels of music, starving them, inflicting various kinds of water torture, depriving them of sleep for days, and chaining them in stress positions designed for pain and to keep them awake for days on end. The two victims who survived still suffer physically and psychologically from the effects of their torture.

This is the first time a case on the CIA's use of torture has gotten so far in the courts. A big reason for that is because it's harder to argue that classified information is at risk - since much of it was declassified in the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence report on the CIA's use of torture, over 500 pages of which was released in December 2014. The report confirmed that under former President George W. Bush, "interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others." The report also documented a variety of torture methods used on detainees, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, threats made against detainees' families, physical beatings, rectal rehydration, ice baths, putting detainees in coffin-sized boxes, and other horrifying abuse.

Salim told the Guardian that while being tortured during his five years in custody, he couldn't sleep, eat, or smell. Today, he is back home in Tanzania, but he told the publication that "flashbacks come anytime, so much they make you crazy."

"This is a historic win in the fight to hold the people responsible for torture accountable for their despicable and unlawful actions," ACLU Staff Attorney Dror Ladin, who argued in court, said in a statement after the decision was made. "Thanks to this unprecedented ruling, CIA victims will be able to call their torturers to account in court for the first time."


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