News 08 Nov. 2021

Curtis Appellate Team Files an Amicus Brief for King’s College London on Why Admitting Evidence Derived from Torture Violates International Law

New York, November 8, 2021 – Acting as pro bono counsel, Curtis filed an amicus brief for the King’s College London Legal Clinic in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to challenge the admissibility of any information derived from torture before the U.S. Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay.

On May 18, 2021, a military judge ruled in U.S. v. Al-Nashiri that statements purportedly obtained through torture cannot be admitted into evidence at trial, but that the military judge could consider such statements on interlocutory questions – such as to “provide context on a discovery issue in dispute.” The military judge did not consider U.S. obligations under international law, specifically the obligations under the Convention Against Torture and customary international law that prevents states from using evidence derived from torture at any stage of the proceedings against an accused.

The military judge’s ruling has been characterized and condemned as the first publicly known time that prosecutors in Guantanamo Bay have been allowed to use information derived from torture in those proceedings.

On the detainee’s challenge to this ruling before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, eleven law students from the King’s Legal Clinic and their clinical supervisors answered the clarion call to outline for the federal appellate court why admitting evidence derived from torture violates international law. The amicus brief surveys the international law framework for the federal appellate court to outline what the military judge overlooked – simply that the Convention Against Torture applies in the U.S. Military Commissions. Also supporting and signing on to the amicus brief were two former U.N. Special Rapporteurs for Torture, Professors Juan Méndez and Manfred Nowak.

Philippa Webb, an international law scholar, barrister and King’s College London Law School professor who co-authored the submission, stated that “The admission of statements obtained through torture in any proceedings violates rules at the core of international law. The global consensus is overwhelming. I am grateful for the dedication of my colleagues and students and the professionalism of the Curtis team in shining a light on this issue.”

Curtis appellate associate Juan Perla added, “We are honored to assist King’s College Legal Clinic and its associated professors and students in bringing their views to the attention of the D.C. Circuit, especially with respect to fundamental principles of international law such as the prohibition against using evidence obtained through torture .”

The Curtis pro bono appellate team was led by national security law partner Jason Wright and included associates Juan Perla and Allesandra Tyler. The case is In re: Al-Nashiri, Case No. 21-1208 (D.C. Cir. filed Oct. 15, 2021).

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