In a historic legal development, victims of the CIA’s post–9/11 program of kidnapping “terror suspects” and holding them at secret locations throughout the world where they were horribly tortured will finally see a trial courtroom.
A federal judge on Friday cleared the way for the trial to begin, likely in September, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union brought the federal case on behalf of a Tanzanian fisherman named Suleiman Abdullah Salim, who was kidnapped by the CIA in Somalia in 2003, and Mohammed Ahmed Ben Soud, from Libya, who was kidnapped and taken to Afghanistan, where he was tortured.
The lawsuit targets two former Air Force psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, who were paid $81 million over six years for designing torture methods used against the plaintiffs and many other victims of “extraordinary rendition” by the CIA in the years following 9/11.
The Times notes that these methods included waterboarding, forced rectal “feeding,” and torture with loud noises and bright lights. The defendants had argued in previous hearings that they couldn’t be held legally accountable for the torture because they were contracted by the CIA to perform their “work.”
According to the Times, the defendants also desperately argued this:
In a last-ditch effort Friday to get the case dismissed, the defendants compared their situation to that of World War II manufacturers who supplied the Nazis with poison gas, and who later argued they weren’t responsible for how the gas was used.
That argument didn’t work out too well for the Nazi gas manufacturers, nor did it work for the U.S. military psychologists.
U.S. officials have long argued that these torture methods were justified under the auspices of national security, or that because the foreign nationals were held at foreign facilities, they were unprotected by U.S. or international law.
According to Human Rights Watch, “the U.S. government has not adequately accounted for these abuses. It has an obligation under international law to prosecute torture where warranted and provide redress to victims, but it has done neither.”
The trial, which likely will begin the first week of September, would be a major step toward establishing this legal redress for some of the victims, the ACLU said.