Detention & Guantanamo

EDVA Grants Motions to Dismiss in Ameur v. Gates

By Jane Chong
Thursday, June 27, 2013, 11:30 AM

Last Thursday, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted motions to dismiss the suit of a former Guantánamo detainee in Ameur v. Gates for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

Mammar Ameur, an Algerian citizen, was captured in Pakistan during a July 2002 raid. He was transferred to U.S. custody and held for three months in Bagram before being transferred to Guantánamo, where he was detained until his release and return to Algeria in October 2008.

In 2011, Ameur filed suit in the Western District of Washington, seeking money damages against 22 government officials and 100 John Does in their individual capacities for their roles in his alleged mistreatment and torture. In 2012, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as to all defendants except former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and transferred the case to EDVA.

Ameur brought a total of nine claims: six alleging violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions; two alleging  violation of his Fifth Amendment right to due process and his First Amendment right to religious freedom; and a last alleging violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In addition to asserting his innocence, Ameur offered a timeline supporting the illegality of his detention, alleging that a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) had (mistakenly) designated him an enemy combatant in 2004, two years after his initial detention, and that his counsel was not notified until 2007 that the military had cleared him for release back in 2005.

Writes Judge Lee:

The Court grants Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss and dismisses Plaintiff’s Complaint in its entirety because the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s claims. The Court grants the motion because the Military Commissions Act (“MCA”) divests the Court of jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s claims. Alternatively, sovereign immunity applies to Plaintiff’s nonconstitutional claims, as the Westfall Act provides that the United States is the proper defendant for these claims and the Government has not waived sovereign immunity here.

The New York Times has published a series of government documents related to Ameur's detainment, including a transcript of his CSRT hearing and the Guantánamo Joint Task Force assessment of his case.