Peter James Spielman
A civil liberties group asked the Organization of American States' human rights commission Tuesday to investigate the U.S. government for what it says are violations of the rights of Brooklyn-born convicted terrorist Jose Padilla.
Although Padilla was born in Brooklyn, his family later moved to Chicago, where he became a member of the Latin Kings gang. After serving a jail sentence for manslaughter, he converted to Islam. Although his original Muslim teacher believed in non-violence, he soon fell in with radical Islamic fundamentalists, and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Padilla was arrested in Chicago in 2002 as a “material witness” to the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks, held as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig and tried in 2007. He was found guilty in federal court of supporting terrorism in Kosovo, Bosnia and Chechnya. He is now serving a 17-year sentence.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the U.S. violated Padilla's rights when it labeled him an enemy combatant and subjected him to interrogation that amounted to torture, including sleep and sensory deprivation in solitary confinement.
The watchdog legal group told the Associated Press 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 regional international organization promotes cooperation among the 35 independent countries of the Americas.
Jamil Dakwar, the ACLU's human rights program director, said this will be the first-ever petition to be filed to the OAS commission by an American citizen against the U.S. government alleging torture and abuse.
The State Department and the Justice Department were contacted about the issue, but did not have an immediate response on Monday night.
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."
* Padilla was denied contact with his lawyers or family during interrogation.
* He was not allowed to practice his religion, Islam. The copy of the Quran he was initially allowed was confiscated.
* His mental state deteriorated so badly that he often refused to meet with lawyers or his family, fearing that would result in his return to military custody.
The ACLU said it was filing the petition on behalf of Padilla and his mother Estela Lebron, contending her rights were also violated when she was not allowed to communicate with or visit her son for years.