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Yuksel Celikgogus, et al v. Donald Rumsfeld

February 1, 2013

YUKSEL CELIKGOGUS, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DONALD RUMSFELD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
SAMI ABDULAZIZ AL LAITHI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DONALD RUMSFELD, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The six plaintiffs in this action-Yuksel Celikgogus, Ibrahim Sen, Nuri Mert, Zakirjan Hasam, Abu Muhammad, and Sami Al Laithi*fn1 -were held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility where they allege that they were abused by defendants or at defendants' direction. They bring these consolidated actions against numerous U.S. officials, asserting claims under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), 28 U.S.C. § 1350; the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.; and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). Three of the men allege that abuses occurred after a Combatant Status Review Tribunal determined that the three men were not enemy combatants.

Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Celikgogus, Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 43; Al Laithi, Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 10. Because all of these claims are legally indistinguishable from those rejected by the D.C. Circuit in Rasul v. Myers (Rasul I), 512 F.3d 644 (D.C. Cir. 2008), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 555 U.S. 1083 (2008), judgment reinstated Rasul v. Myers (Rasul II), 563 F.3d 527 (D.C. Cir. 2009), the Court will GRANT defendants' motions to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

The following are the facts of the case as alleged in plaintiffs' complaints, Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl., ECF No. 37; Al Laithi, Compl., ECF No. 1, which the Court must take as true while resolving defendants' motions to dismiss. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93--94 (2007).

Plaintiffs are foreign nationals who came to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, or Pakistan as refugees or in search of employment. See Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9--13, 53, 77, 98, 124, 148; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 11, 30. After the United States began bombing Afghanistan in October 2001, Mr. Celikgogus, Mr. Sen, and Mr. Al Laithi were arrested by Pakistani authorities while fleeing Afghanistan, Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 53, 77, Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 30, and Mr. Mert was captured in Afghanistan by unknown armed men. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 98. Around the same time, Mr. Hasam was forcibly taken from Tajikistan into Afghanistan, Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 124, and Mr. Muhammad was arrested in his home by Pakistani authorities. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 148--49. Each was subsequently transferred into U.S. custody. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 54, 78, 99, 124--25, 150; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 32. Mr. Hasam and Mr. Muhammad were initially detained at the Bagram airbase near Kabul while Mr. Celikgogus, Mr. Sen, Mr. Hasam, Mr. Mert, and Mr. Al Laithi were detained at the U.S. airbase in Kandahar. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 35--43; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶¶ 33--45.

All were subsequently transferred to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 45; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 46. Four of the plaintiffs (Mr. Celikgogus, Mr. Sen, Mr. Mert, and Mr. Al Laithi) were initially held at Camp X-Ray, where they allege that they were subjected to harsh conditions including sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat and cold, being forced to defecate in public, being prohibited from practicing their religion, and other abuse. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 46; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶¶ 50--54. Camp X-Ray was replaced by Camp Delta in April 2002, where all six plaintiffs were held. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 47; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 55. All plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to harsh conditions including sleep deprivation, arbitrary discipline, forced nudity, and a variety of physical, psychological, and cultural abuse. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47--51; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶¶ 56--66.

In late 2004, the U.S. Department of Defense instituted Combatant Status Review Tribunals ("CSRTs"), an administrative process to determine whether a detainee was an "enemy combatant." Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 52; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 67; see also Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 733 (2008). Mr. Hasam, Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Al Laithi each had CSRT hearings which determined that they were not enemy combatants. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 52; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 67. Mr. Hasam and Mr. Muhammad were detained for seventeen months after this determination. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 52. Mr. Al Laithi was detained for ten months after his favorable CSRT ruling. Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 68. All three allege that abuse continued during this post-CSRT detention.

All plaintiffs were ultimately released from U.S. custody: Mr. Celikgogus, Mr. Mert and Mr. Sen were returned to Turkey, Mr. Hasam and Mr. Muhammad were sent to Albania, and Mr. Al Laithi was sent to Egypt. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 73, 94, 120, 146, 172; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 70. All allege ongoing medical, psychological, and social problems resulting from their detention. Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 73--76, 94--97, 120--23, 146--47, 172--73; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶ 70--71.

Plaintiffs brought these consolidated actions against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and numerous military personnel-ranging from former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers to individual guards and interrogators at Guantanamo (named as John Does). Celikgogus, 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14--30; Al Laithi, Compl. ¶¶ 12--25.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint or claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). In response, the plaintiff must show that her claims lie within "the judicial Power of the United States," U.S. Const. art. III, § 1, and that a federal statute grants the Court jurisdiction to hear those claims. Micei Int'l v. Dep't of Commerce, 613 F.3d 1147, 1151 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

A defendant may also move to dismiss a complaint or claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must recite facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A "pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

III. ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs raise four types of claims: (i) ATS claims; (ii) Bivens claims based on the First and Fifth Amendments; (iii) RFRA claims; and (iv) claims of conspiracy to deprive plaintiffs of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. ยง ...


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