In March 2005, CJA filed an amicus brief supporting the appeal of a D.C. Circuit Court ruling in a suit against the government of Iraq for torture claims.  The original complaint was brought under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) that provides victims of state sponsored terrorism, including torture and extrajudicial killing, with the ability to seek redress for their injuries in U.S. courts.


Acree v. Republic of Iraq was filed on behalf of seventeen American POWs who were tortured, beaten, and starved while held captive in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.  The plaintiffs also included 37 family members of the POWs who suffered psychological and emotional harm as a result of the ill-treatment to which their loved ones were subjected.

On July 30, 2003, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case, holding that a Congressional military appropriations bill gave the President the authority to restore sovereign immunity to the State of Iraq, despite the state sponsor of terrorism exception in the FSIA. According to the court, the Bush administration’s position  was that the “POWs are unable to recover any portion of their judgment, despite their sacrifice in the service of their country.”  Plaintiffs appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals held that the state sponsor of terrorism exception in the FSIA is merely a jurisdictional grant and that plaintiffs required an independent federal cause of action to bring claims of torture.  Our amicus brief, filed in March 2005, argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should review the case because the appeals court’s analysis contradicted the Court’s ruling in Sosa v. Álvarez Machain, which authorizes federal courts to hear cases of severe human rights abuses.  Our position was that the appeals court’s analysis created an odd dichotomy: it allowed aliens to sue for torture under international law but denied a similar right to former U.S. prisoners of war who were tortured.


On April 25, 2005, the Supreme Court refused to grant cert, leaving the appeals court ruling intact.


CJA Amicus Brief
Mar 05 Amicus Brief: CJA and International Law Scholars
Related Documents
04 Jun 04
DC Circuit Court Opinion