It is a fundamental rule of international law that any person whose human rights have been violated shall have access to an effective remedy. However, the administration of President Barack Obama, like its predecessor, has systematically blocked, or sought to have the courts block, access to remedy for current or former detainees held in US custody in the counterterrorism context over the past decade. Congress, meanwhile, has done little or nothing to bring the USA into line with its international obligations on this issue.
The latest in a series of judicial decisions blocking remedy comes from the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case of José Padilla, a US citizen who was held without charge or trial as an “enemy combatant” in a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina, for some three and a half years before being transferred in 2006 to civilian jurisdiction (from which he had been removed by presidential order in 2002), brought to trial and convicted of terrorism-related offences. This report describes the recent dismissal in federal court of the lawsuit brought by Jose Padilla. Dismissal of his lawsuit for redress follows a pattern of such dismissals. The US is in breach of its international human rights obligations on remedy, as well as on accountability, in the counter-terrorism context. All branches of government must now cooperate to ensure that this continuing failure to meet US obligations is ended.