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New York City Bar Association Challenges Denial of Access to the Courts for Torture Victim

September 5, 2007

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Contact Information:
Oroma Mpi, 212 382–6713
Aziz Huq, 212 992–8632 
New York City Bar Association Challenges Denial of Access to the Courts for Torture Victim 
New York, NY – Today, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to ensure that victims of American “torture” get their day in court in the U.S. justice system.

The brief, drafted by attorneys at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, argues that the High Court should take the case of Khaled El Masri, a German citizen who was seized without any legal process on a European street, and detained incommunicado and abused in a U.S. facility in Afghanistan for several months.  

In March 2004, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, dismissed Mr. El Masri’s suit for damages, on the ground that the lawsuit risked exposing “state secrets” even though almost all the facts of the case are already public. 

“The brief stresses the fundamental role of the courts in our constitutional system of separation of powers,” said Barry Kamins, President of the Association.  “The courts must act as a check against unconstitutional or unlawful conduct of the Executive Branch.”

“Access to the courts for those who have been wrongfully detained and abused in the course of counterterrorism policies ought to be a central tenet of our national strategy,” said Aziz Huq, Director of the Liberty and National Security Project at the Brennan Center.  “It’s only by being seen to do justice that we persuade the world that our cause is just.”   

The brief is filed today in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the “extraordinary rendition” policy of the United States:  El Masri v. Tenet.  The brief may be found here.

The Liberty and National Security Project of the Brennan Center works to ensure accountability, transparency, and checks and balances in the formulation and implementation of national security policy. It is founded on the belief that these are vital for individual liberties and an effective and sustainable counter-terrorism strategy.