June 30, 2015, New York, NY. The International Justice Network (IJN) is happy to announce today that two of its clients, Redha al-Najar and Lotfi al-Ghrissi, have finally been released after spending more than a decade imprisoned without charge in U.S. custody. Both men were secretly captured and tortured for years by the CIA at “black sites” prior to being transferred to the U.S. military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (“Bagram”). The U.S. government then detained Mr. al-Najar and Mr. al-Ghrissi without charge or access to a lawyer for more than a decade, and claimed that since they were imprisoned outside of the United States, they had no legal or human rights enforceable under U.S. law.
In 2008, IJN filed habeas petitions on behalf of Mr. al-Najar and Mr. al-Ghrissi in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that the U.S. government was violating the U.S. Constitution and international law by imprisoning them indefinitely without charge. In 2009, the judge in Mr. al-Najar's case ruled that Mr. al-Najar had a constitutional right to petition a U.S. court to challenge his detention by the U.S. government. However, the government opposed Mr. al-Najar’s right to have his day in court, appealed the ruling, and ultimately obtained a reversal of the District Court’s decision. In August 2014, IJN filed a petition for certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case, and to declare that Mr. al-Najar and other detainees held at Bagram had a constitutional right to have their cases heard in U.S. courts.
While Mr. al-Najar’s petition for certiorari was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate Intelligence Committee released an unclassified summary of a shocking report on the CIA’s post-9/11 program of torture, extraordinary rendition, and detention. An entire section of the report was devoted to the sadistic and criminal abuse of Mr. al-Najar, confirming that he was tortured for 700 days at CIA “black sites”. The report revealed that the CIA used torture methods on Mr. al-Najar including hanging from the ceiling and being forced to wear a diaper and denied toilet facilities. The report also confirmed that Mr. al-Ghrissi had been tortured by the CIA for nearly 400 days.
On the same day the report was released, the U.S. military announced the closure of its detention center at Bagram and transferred Mr. al-Najar and Mr. al-Ghrissi to an Afghan-run section of the prison. The two men remained imprisoned without charge for another six months in Afghan custody – though U.S. authorities continued to be closely involved with their cases. Since the men were no longer technically in U.S. custody, their case in the U.S. Supreme Court was dismissed in March 2015.
Last week, Mr. al-Najar and Mr. al-Ghrissi were finally repatriated to their native Tunisia. Their transfer from Afghanistan to Tunisia was secretly arranged and carried out by U.S. government personnel, accompanied by representatives of the Afghan government. IJN has today confirmed that the men have now been freed by Tunisian authorities and reunited with their families in Tunisia.
Their attorney, Sylvia Royce, said she is “so pleased their long ordeal has finally come to an end," and hopes "they are able to go on and lead productive lives, without bitterness towards the U.S. that imprisoned them for so long."
Another attorney for the men, Tina M. Foster, Executive Director of IJN, said, “Redha al-Najar and Lotfi al-Ghrissi have survived kidnapping, secret CIA interrogation, torture, and decades-long imprisonment without access to their families, attorneys, or any court of law.” Foster added, “We are elated that they have finally been freed, but the government agents who illegally imprisoned and tortured them should be held accountable for their actions.”
The International Justice Network (IJN) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides legal assistance to survivors of human rights abuses and their families, advocates for universal human rights, and promotes the rule of law through a network of legal experts, non-governmental organizations, and local activists across the globe.