The parents of Marine Corps recruit Raheel Siddiqui are fighting to keep a lawsuit over their son’s death alive.
Last month, in December, the federal government filed a motion to dismiss the litigation, arguing that federal civil courts lack jurisdiction on military affairs. Siddiqui’s mother and father were hoping to win $100 million damages and compensation.
However, legal precedent may not be on their side.
As the Detroit News explains, the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that military courts “are the exclusive avenue” for claims pertaining to injury and death in the armed forces. According a principle known as the Feres doctrine, martial lawsuits aren’t actionable in civil courts.
“Plaintiffs claims arise from injuries to a recruit” on a military base during basic training, wrote a government attorney in a court brief arguing for dismissal.
“Recruits are awarded the rank of private in the active duty military and, even if recruits were not full members of the military, courts have consistently held that the Feres doctrine bars claims against the government for claims by students, trainees, and members of the military reserves.”
Siddiqui’s parents, writes The Detroit News, allege their son was brutalized by an instructor at the Marine Corps training center at Parris Island in South Carolina. They say Raheel was assaulted, hazed and verbally abused after being recruited – an experience which culminated in the young man’s death.
The military, the plaintiffs claim, failed to protect Siddiqui, who died after falling from a three-story building.
Military investigators quickly deemed the death a suicide. But later reports indicated Siddiqui may have been fleeing from one of his instructors, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix.
Felix was sentenced to 10 years in a military prison in late 2017, after a court martial declared he’d abused three Muslim recruits, including Siddiqui. He violated general orders regarding the treatment of recruits, making physical contact with the young men that included violent punches and choking.
The government has also claimed that the investigation into Siddiqui’s death has already led to the Marines Corps introducing “corrective measures” to combat widespread hazing at Parris Island. Moreover, federal attorneys have pointed out that Raheel’s parents received a $100,000 payment from the Marines’ death benefits program, as well as $400,000 from the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance program.
The Siddiqui family, writes The Detroit News, is still on the warpath, trying to avenge what they say is negligence. Along with their congresswoman, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn, MI), they’ve asked the coroner in Beaufort County, SC, to change the cause of death on Raheel’s death certificate from “suicide” to “undetermined.”
The coroner hasn’t yet made a decision.