Mother of American Torture Victim José Padilla Brings Case Before International Human Rights Tribunal
U.S. Courts Have Denied Recourse
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic today filed a petition against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) for the unlawful detention and torture of José Padilla, a U.S. citizen, whom the United States detained and interrogated for four years.
The petition was filed by Padilla’s mother, Estella Lebron, on her own and on her son’s behalf. Padilla and Lebron had previously filed federal lawsuits – since dismissed – against current and former government officials for their roles in Padilla’s torture and other abuse.
The petition is an international complaint asking the IACHR, which is an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States, to conduct a full investigation into the human rights violations suffered by Padilla; to find that his mistreatment violated the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; and to recommend that the United States publicly acknowledge the violations and apologize for its unlawful conduct.
“The U.S. justice system denied a day in court to a U.S. citizen who was arrested and then tortured on U.S. soil by his own government,” said Steven Watt, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The U.S. has historically been a leader in ensuring access to justice for human rights violations around the world, but it has effectively closed the courtroom door to all victims and survivors of the Bush administration’s torture regime. Denied redress in U.S. courts, torture survivors like Padilla are now left with no choice but to turn to international justice.”
In 2002, President Bush declared Padilla an “enemy combatant” and ordered him to be placed in military custody. U.S. officials seized Padilla from a civilian jail in New York and secretly transported him to the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., where they held him for 43 months without charge. Interrogators subjected Padilla to torture and other egregious forms of abuse, including forcing him into stress positions for hours on end, punching him, depriving him of sleep and threatening him with further torture, “extraordinary rendition” and death.
“For more than a decade, Estela Lebron has lived with the terrible knowledge that her own government tortured her son, but there has never been any official acknowledgement, let alone an apology,” said Alaina Varvaloucas, a student with Yale’s Lowenstein Clinic who worked on preparing the petition. “The pain and indignity of that betrayal continue to this day.”
For the first 21 months of his captivity, Padilla was held incommunicado, without access to lawyers and his family.
“No human being deserves what happened to our family, and I will continue to work for my son and for justice as long as I’m breathing. As a mother, I want to be sure this never happens to anyone else,” said Lebron. “This petition may be my last chance.”
Today’s petition filed with the IACHR is available at:
Information on the dismissed federal lawsuit against U.S. officials is available at:
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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today announced that it would not review the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against current and former government officials for their roles in the unlawful detention and torture of U.S. citizen José Padilla. In January, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s ruling that an American citizen designated an “enemy combatant” by the executive branch could not sue to vindicate his constitutional rights based on a claim that he was tortured at the direction of senior government officials.
“The Supreme Court’s refusal to consider Jose Padilla’s case leaves in place a blank check for government officials to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison,” said Ben Wizner, the ACLU’s lead counsel on the case. “To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture regime has received his day in court. It is precisely the role of the courts to ensure that allegations of grave misconduct by executive Branch officials receive fair adjudication. That vital role does not evaporate simply because those officials insist that their actions are too sensitive for judicial review.”
Padilla was taken from a civilian jail in New York in 2002 by military agents, declared an “enemy combatant” and secretly transported to the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C. He was imprisoned without charge for nearly four years, subjected to extreme abuse and was unable to communicate with his lawyers or family for two years. The illegal treatment included forcing Padilla into stress positions for hours on end, punching him, depriving him of sleep and threatening him with further torture and death.
More information and case documents are available at: