Review Jose Padilla case, says ACLU

Group alleges he was tortured

NEW YORK — A civil liberties group asked the Organization of American States’ human rights commission Tuesday to investigate the US government for what it says are violations of the rights of convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the United States violated Padilla’s rights when it labeled him an ‘‘enemy combatant’’ a decade ago and subjected him to interrogation that amounted to torture, including sleep and sensory deprivation in solitary confinement.

The watchdog legal group said it had filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which serves as the human-rights investigation arm of the Washington-based OAS. The United States has argued in the past that it is not bound by the commission and views its findings as ‘‘only recommendations that the United States can ignore or it can follow,’’ according to Steven Watt, the ACLU lawyer who filed the petition. But the findings could still prove awkward for the United States, which sees itself as a leader on human rights and is quick to criticize other countries it views as falling short on that front.


‘‘My experience is that there is some moral suasion and the US supports the commission . . . and cooperates with the commission’s inquiries,’’ said Roger Noriega, a former US ambassador to the OAS who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think tank.

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But Noriega said the United States is not party to the treaty establishing the commission’s authority ‘‘and there can be no argument that we are legally bound by the Court’s decisions.’’

Jamil Dakwar, the ACLU’s human rights program director, said this is the first-ever petition to be filed to the OAS commission by an American citizen against the US government alleging torture and abuse.

It asks the OAS body to recommend that the United States publicly acknowledge the violations and apologize for its unlawful conduct.

The OAS promotes cooperation among the 35 independent countries of the Americas.


State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson referred queries to the Justice Department. Officials at Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.

Among the allegations in the ACLU’s petition are that Padilla’s interrogation included ‘‘painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation, which caused him severe physical and psychological trauma that persists to this day.’’ It characterized these as ‘‘physical and psychological torture and abuse.’’