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Updated 04/01/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—April 1, 2007

1. Torture suit against Donald Rumsfeld dismissed
2. Guantánamo detainees suffered torture on return to home country
3. Australian Guantánamo Bay detainee pleads guilty
4. Businesses deny services to those wrongfully matched to terror watch list
5. Egypt approves antiterror referendum

1. Torture suit against Donald Rumsfeld dismissed
The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on March 27 that nine Iraqi and Afghan detainees formerly held by the United States could not sue former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for torture they endured while in custody. The court acknowledged that the men were victims of torture, but ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue in U.S. courts and that Rumsfeld’s former position as a government official made him immune from such suits. The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First brought the suit on behalf of the nine men. [BBC, 3/27/07; AP, 3/27/07, ACLU Press Release, 3/27/07] 

2. Guantánamo detainees suffered torture on return to home country
Former Guantánamo Bay detainees released home to Russia in 2004 suffered torture and other abuse despite promises of humane treatment by Russian authorities, according to a March 29 Human Rights Watch report. The seven men had complained of mistreatment while in U.S. custody, but nevertheless asked not to be released to Russia because they feared worse treatment there. Human Rights Watch claims that many countries deport terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture, justifying such transfers on the basis of “diplomatic assurances” of fair treatment. Carroll Bogert, associate director of Human Rights Watch, said that the Russian cases show that “diplomatic assurances” are insufficient and that the U.S. government knew the men would probably be tortured. [HRW Press Release, 3/29/07; HRW report, 3/29/07]

3. Australian Guantánamo Bay detainee pleads guilty
David Hicks, an Australian who has been imprisoned at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for five years, pled guilty on March 26 to providing material support to terrorists in Afghanistan. Hicks is the first detainee to enter a guilty plea under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Although sentencing is not expected until at least March 30, Hicks is expected to serve his sentence in Australia and may be transferred there by the end of 2007. He has alleged that while in U.S. custody he was the victim of severe physical abuse. [Democracy Now, 3/27/07; Sydney Morning Herald, 3/28/07] 

4. Businesses deny services to those wrongfully matched to terror watch list
The Treasury Department’s terror watch list has been preventing innocent Americans from receiving business services because they have names similar to those on the list, according to a report released March 27 by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. The report says that although the government has encouraged businesses—including credit bureaus, health insurers and landlords—to cross-check customers against the 250-page list, it has provided few safeguards to prevent wrongful targeting. In one example, a man named Tom Kubbany was denied a home loan because his middle name, Hassan, was an alias for one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. [AP, 3/27/07; JURIST, 3/27/07; LCCR report, 3/27/07] 

5. Egypt approves antiterror referendum
Egyptian voters on March 26 approved a referendum amending the Egyptian constitution to grant more powers to the president to fight terrorism. Changes included waiving the search-warrant requirement if the government deems an investigated activity to be related to terrorism, and allowing civilians to be tried in military tribunals. Political parties are now banned from being religiously based, which would stop the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group, from forming a party. According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, only 5 percent of voters participated in the referendum, while the government claimed participation was about 27 percent. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern about the changes, but also said, “We recognize that states [reform] in their own way.” [Reuters, 3/25/07; Reuters, 3/25/07; HRW, 3/26/07; AKI, 3/27/07]

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