US courts to consider post-9/11 detention of immigrants cases

US courts to consider post-9/11 detention of immigrants cases
The US Supreme Court has said it will allow cases to be filed against former senior Bush administration officials over the detentions of immigrants after 11 September 2001 terror attacks.
3 min read
12 October, 2016
The hearing is expected at the end of June [Getty]

The US Supreme Court says it will allow a lawsuit against former senior government officials due to allegations of abusive detentions of immigrants following the 11 September 2011 terror attacks in New York and Washington, it said on Tuesday.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, and other officials of former President George W. Bush's administration, are among those who argue they are immune from prosecution. Some think otherwise.

"No one is above the law. To suggest that the most powerful people in our nation should escape liability when they violate clearly established law defies the most fundamental principle of our legal system," said Rachel Meeropol whose firm, the Center for Constitutional Rights is representing the victims.

The hearing is not yet scheduled but is expected to come before the court's annual session ends in late June. The case could be heard by seven judges if the vacant spot on the nine-judge panel is filled.

Two of the current eight Supreme Court judges have recused themselves, after apparently having worked on cases that could pose a conflict of interest.

If the hearing comes before 20 January, when President Barack Obama finishes his second term, it would mean his Democratic administration would be defending the Republican Bush administration.

US authorities questioned and detained more than 750 immigrants because they lacked the proper immigration documents in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

The plaintiffs say they were targeted because they were Muslims or of Arab descent, and suggest they were held for no valid reason.

They recounted abusive detentions, including being held in isolation, deprived of sleep, and subject to insults and physical abuse by guards.

At the end of September, the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to override Barack Obama's veto of a bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, the first such rebuke during his eight-year presidency.

The Senate overrode the veto in a 97-1 vote, bringing the controversial 9/11 bill into the US law.

Families of 9/11 victims have campaigned for the law, convinced the Riyadh government had a hand in the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, but no link to the government has been proven. The Saudi government denies any ties to the plotters.

Declassified documents showed US intelligence had multiple suspicions about links between Riyadh and the attackers.

Behind the scenes, Riyadh lobbied furiously for the bill to be scrapped.

A senior Saudi prince reportedly threatened to pull billions of dollars out of US assets if it were to become law, although Saudi officials have now distanced themselves from that claim.

The US-Saudi relationship had already been strained by Obama's engagement with Saudi's foe Iran and the July release of a secret report on Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks.