Stanford Law School's International Human Rights Clinic Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Journalist Detained by U.S. Military in Bagram, Afghanistan
STANFORD, Calif., June 3, 2008—The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at the Mills Legal Clinic at Stanford Law School, acting as co-counsel with International Justice Network, filed a lawsuit today against the United States government on behalf of a 22-year-old Canadian Television (CTV) journalist, Jawed Ahmad, who has been held without charge in military custody at the detention facility at the United States Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan since October 2007.
The case, Ahmad v. Bush, was filed as a petition for writ of habeas corpus and as a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against President of the United States George Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The complaint asks the court to use its authority to compel the President and the U.S. military to establish a lawful basis for Ahmad’s detention, or to release him immediately.
According to the petition and complaint, Jawed Ahmad is an Afghan civilian working as a journalist for CTV who has been designated an “enemy combatant” without basis and is being held virtually incommunicado without charge and without access to a lawyer or a fair process by which he can challenge his designation and detention. The detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan is under the undisputed exclusive jurisdiction and control of the U.S. military.
“This journalist is being held unlawfully under the authority of the President,” said lead counsel Barbara Olshansky, a visiting professor who directs the International Human Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School, and litigation director at the International Justice Network. “He has not been informed of his rights under the United States Constitution, the regulations of the United States Military, the Geneva Conventions, the Vienna Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, or customary international law.”
According to Olshansky and the International Justice Network, Ahmad is one of several confirmed cases of foreign journalists being detained by the U.S. government as part of “the war on terror.” In April this year, the United States released Bilal Hussein, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographer for the Associated Press, after two years of military imprisonment without charge in Iraq. In May, Al Jeezera cameraman Sami Al Haj was released after five years of detention without charge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“In the United States, we believe that freedom of the press is an essential component of our democracy, but it appears that under military order, the United States government is detaining foreign journalists without basis and without due process,” Olshansky said. “That runs afoul of our beliefs and it runs afoul of the law. It also interferes with our ability as citizens to get uncensored press reports from combat zones on sensitive topics.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which has called attention to Ahmad’s detention, has reported that Ahmad had been working as a journalist for CTV about one year. Prior to that he worked for a security company and as a translator for the United States military as well as a driver for international journalists stationed in Kandahar. His employer, CTV, one of Canada’s largest private broadcasters, also reports that it has made inquiries to NATO, the Canadian military, and the U.S. military on Ahmad’s behalf, to no avail.
About Barbara Olshansky
Barbara Olshansky, a leading voice in international human rights and humanitarian law, is the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights. She joined Stanford in 2007 to teach international law and to establish and direct the International Human Rights Clinic’s in-country clinical program in Namibia. Professor Olshansky is known for her groundbreaking work on the 2004 Rasul v. Bush case, in which the Supreme Court of the United States overruled a lower court ruling and found that American courts have jurisdiction over claims brought by Guantánamo detainees who are foreign nationals. She is also the co-author of several books, including Against War with Iraq and Democracy Detained: Secret, Unconstitutional Practices in the U.S. War on Terror.
About the Mills Legal Clinic
Stanford Law School offers a variety of clinics that litigate in specialized fields, including environmental protection, immigrants’ rights, community law, cyberlaw, educational advocacy, and international human rights. The clinics provide pro bono representation and operate cohesively as a single law firm, the Mills Legal Clinic of Stanford Law School. The Mills Legal Clinic provides students an opportunity to apply classroom theory to real client situations and to develop a lifelong commitment to public service values.
About the International Human Rights Clinic
The International Humans Rights Clinic provides students with the opportunity to travel to Africa to engage in cutting-edge work in the area of international human rights and the development of the rule of law.
Most recently, the program has focused its work on Namibia. Students spent the winter quarter at Stanford Law with clinic faculty studying the historical, cultural, and legal context of Namibia, and conducting outreach to Namibian leaders. In the spring, the students and faculty traveled to Namibia to work with their clients on their projects. The students drafted anti-torture statutes, collaborated with agencies providing services to AIDS patients, worked with the judiciary on creating methods of disseminating precedents and worked with indigenous populations to memorialize their legal rules.
In past years, students have worked with a Ghanaian organization interviewing scores of detainees in police detention centers, calling attention to individual cases and helping to create a framework for more general challenges to the conditions of confinement. Other students have worked with lawyers and community groups furthering human rights in areas such as the right to healthcare.
About Stanford Law School
Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching.
Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights,
and project lead for the International Human Rights Clinic