WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court on Monday revived a lawsuit by four former British detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, ordering a lower court to reconsider their claims of torture and religious bias.
The justices ordered a Washington DC appeals court to review its January 2008 ruling quashing the lawsuit against former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 senior US military officers.
The high court said the case should be reconsidered in light of its June 12 ruling that prisoners held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba had a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts.
In their suit, the Britons claimed they were protected against torture by a US constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. They also argued that their rights to practice their religion under the US Religious Freedom Restoration Act were violated at Guantanamo.
Monday's decision was the latest in a string of legal rebukes to the extraordinary military justice system set up by the administration of President George W. Bush to try "enemy combatants" seized as part of the government's "war on terrorism."
The men said during their detention they were beaten, threatened with dogs, shackled in painful positions, deprived of sleep, food and care and subjected to extreme temperatures.
They also alleged guards harassed them in their religious practices by playing loud rock music at prayer time, confiscating prayer mats, and insulting the Koran by putting the holy book in a toilet bucket.
One of the British nationals behind the lawsuit, Shafiq Rasul, has said that while imprisoned at Guantanamo he was chained to the floor with his hands between his legs and left for hours to endure loud music.
Rasul was arrested in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance in November 2001 along with two friends and handed over to US authorities. He was flown to the Guantanamo detention camp in 2002 and incarcerated for two years without being charged.
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