Binyam Mohamed American litigation win: US Court of Appeals rejects the Obama Administration’s use of state secrets privilege to block case

April 29, 2009

Image of Binyam Mohammed

The Obama Administration cannot use state secrecy doctrine to block Binyam Mohamed’s litigation against aviation company Jeppesen Dataplan, a US Federal Court ruled yesterday.

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the Administration’s invocation of state secrets privilege and instructed the District Court to proceed with the case.

Lawyers for Mr Mohamed – and four others including British ex-prisoner Bisher al Rawi – are suing Jeppesen for their role in the illegal transfer of prisoners between secret prisons abroad. It is alleged that Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing, played a key role in the US government’s extraordary renditions programme. The company is said to have supplied crucial logistical support and to have profited from a lucrative contract in transporting prisoners.

The Bush Administration had applied to get the case thrown out on the grounds that, by exposing details of the US renditions programme, the case would jeopardise national security. To the disappointment of human rights supporters, the Obama Administration took the same view.

Although the District Court accepted this argument, the Appeals Court yesterday reversed their decision, stating that it is not acceptable to throw out an entire case for national security reasons. Rather, Judge Hawkins states that each piece of evidence must be weighed separately as to the ‘danger’ it would pose if made public. The case may then proceed with whatever evidence is safe to be revealed.

“This is a tremendous step forward in the battle to stop corporations making money from the rendition, torture and suffering of the prisoners we represent,” said Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve.“Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al Rawi and perhaps many others, are one step closer to making the CEOs of these companies stop and think before they commit criminal acts for profit.”Renditions investigator Clara Gutteridge said: “It is a relief that the United States courts are finally taking these torture claims seriously. However, we are only beginning to uncover the truth of exactly how these torture flights were allowed to happen.”

“It is inconceivable that Jeppesen acted alone. People in the highest echelons of the US – and in some cases the UK – governments have authorised illegal rendition flights and must also be held accountable.”

The full judgement is available on request; please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099.



Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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