DOJ moves to have former State Department employee’s suit for diplomatic immunity in CIA rendition case dismissed

By Haggai Carmon

When Sabrina de Sousa, a former U.S. Consular officer in the U.S. Consulate in Milan, Italy was accused, along with 25 other Americans, of being involved in a CIA rendition case in Italy, she denied having any involvement or knowledge of the kidnapping and sought to protect herself from prosecution in an Italian court by requesting the U.S. to raise diplomatic or Consular immunity.

The U.S. refused and De Sousa subsequently sued the U.S. government, alleging she cannot travel outside the U.S. for fear of being extradited. De Sousa also claimed that her record is tarnished, impeding her future in the work force after she resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service. On Monday, August 31, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed a motion to dismiss De Sousa’s lawsuit.

De Sousa is currently being tried in absentia in Italy for alleged participation in the 2003 alleged unlawful kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric (Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr), who was living in Milan. Suspected of being a terrorist, he was reportedly transported to Egypt by CIA agents, where he was allegedly imprisoned, interrogated and tortured.

At the time of the kidnapping, De Sousa was employed by the State Department and stationed in Milan. She is suspected by Italian authorities of working for the CIA under diplomatic cover. De Sousa is no longer employed by the State Department.

By filing suit, De Sousa wanted to get the U.S. government to invoke diplomatic immunity on her behalf, as it had neither invoked nor waived immunity for any of the Americans being tried in absentia. The government’s motion to dismiss argues that the courts do not have the jurisdiction to rule in an issue of foreign policy, and that the decision belongs to the executive branch and is not justiciable as it is a political question.

Per the DOJ:

“[T]o assert immunity on her behalf in a foreign judicial proceeding…would require this Court to subject to judicial review the exercise of a discretionary right that has consistently been viewed under U.S. and international law as belonging to the state, and thereby strip the Executive Branch of the discretion that all governments enjoy with respect to the assertion or waiver of immunity consistent with the needs of the state.”

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