San Francisco – Today, two additional victims of the United States government’s unlawful “extraordinary rendition” program joined a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Company. The ACLU charges in its amended complaint that Jeppesen knowingly provided direct flight services to the CIA enabling the clandestine transportation of Bisher al-Rawi and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah to secret overseas locations where they were subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“Being a victim of the CIA’s rendition program was horrific beyond words,” said al-Rawi. “Regrettably, there are many more like me who haven’t been fortunate enough to be released. No one should have to endure such illegal and inhumane treatment.”
In addition to adding two more plaintiffs to the case, today’s amended complaint cites further evidence of Jeppesen’s involvement in the CIA’s program. Citing a report from the Council of Europe, the amended complaint alleges that Jeppesen intentionally submitted “dummy flights” to various aviation authorities in order to conceal the true flight paths of the rendition planes.
“This new evidence further illustrates the magnitude of Jeppesen’s role in the CIA’s rendition program,” said Maya Harris, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “Facilitating and profiting from torture is not only morally reprehensible, it’s illegal and contrary to core American values. Companies that participate in such conduct must be held accountable for their actions.”
The ACLU’s original complaint, filed on May 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, was initiated on behalf of Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel and Ahmed Agiza, three other victims of the CIA’s rendition program.
The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen, through its travel service known as Jeppesen International Trip Planning, has been a main provider of flight and logistical support services for aircraft used by the CIA in the U.S. government's extraordinary rendition program. The CIA rendition flights transfer terror suspects to countries where the U.S. government knows detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards. The lawsuit also charges that Jeppesen has facilitated flights to U.S.-run detention facilities overseas where the U.S. government maintains that the safeguards of its laws do not apply. According to the lawsuit, since December 2001, Jeppesen has provided flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft that have made a total of 70 rendition flights.
“The government’s rendition program depends upon the essential support services Jeppesen is charged with providing,” said Ann Brick, a staff attorney for the ACLU-NC.
Specifically, the ACLU alleges in its amended complaint that Jeppesen provided crucial support services to the CIA for the following flights involving al-Rawi and Bashmilah:
- In December 2002, Iraqi citizen and British resident Bisher al-Rawi was stripped, dressed in a diaper, shackled, blindfolded, restrained in a harness, and flown from Banjul, Gambia to Kabul, Afghanistan where he was secretly detained, interrogated, and tortured at the secret U.S.-run detention facility known as the “Dark Prison” and then at the Bagram Air Base.
- In October 2003, Yemeni citizen Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah was beaten, stripped, dressed in a diaper, shackled, blindfolded, hooded, strapped in an airplane, and flown from Jordan to Kabul, Afghanistan and then taken to Bagram Air Base where he was interrogated, tortured, and held incommunicado by the U.S. government for about six months.
“Through the entire flight from Gambia to Kabul, I was on the verge of screaming,” said al-Rawi. “I was terrified.”
After their detentions in Afghanistan, al-Rawi and Bashmilah continued to endure brutal treatment in U.S. custody. In February 2003, al-Rawi was flown to the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was released in March 2007 and now resides in England. No charges have ever been brought against him.
In April 2004, Bashmilah was again stripped, diapered, shackled, hooded, and transferred to a CIA “black site” in an unknown country where he was once again tortured. In May 2005, he was once again “prepared” for flight, this time to Yemen where he was detained for about nine months before being released.
The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which permits aliens to bring claims in the United States for violations of the law of nations or a United States treaty. The statute recognizes international norms accepted among civilized nations that are violated by acts such as enforced disappearance, torture and other inhuman treatment described in the lawsuit.
The ACLU’s original complaint cited a New Yorker article that reported that a former Jeppesen employee informed the magazine that, at an internal corporate meeting, a senior Jeppesen official stated, "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights - you know, the torture flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way." (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, Oct. 30, 2006.)
In a related case, the ACLU has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the case of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was also a victim of the government's unlawful rendition program. Although the story of El-Masri's mistaken kidnapping and detention at the hands of the CIA is known throughout the world, his lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after the government invoked the so-called "state secrets" privilege. That decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in March 2007.
More information on the Jeppesen lawsuit, including copies of the original and amended complaints, as well as information on El-Masri's case, can be found online at www.aclu.org/rendition.
In addition to Brick, attorneys on the Jeppesen lawsuit are national ACLU Legal Director Steven Shapiro, Steven Watt, Ben Wizner, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite of the International Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law represents Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, and Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent Binyam Mohamed.
Khaled El-Masri is represented by Watt, Wizner, Shapiro, Jaffer and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU, Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia and Victor Glasberg of Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.