US Supreme Court justices on Wednesday are hearing an appeal from former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller and other former US officials that seeks to shut down the lawsuit that human rights lawyers have filed on behalf of Karachi-based Ahmer Abbasi and others over their harsh treatment and prolonged detention in the US in 2001.

The case stems from a class-action suit originally filed in 2002. It’s the third time the court has intervened in lawsuits against Ashcroft and others from Muslims who were arrested in the US following the 2001 attacks. The justices have twice sided with Ashcroft.

Like any repressive state, human rights are not a priority in the US, especially when those rights are of racial minorities. While a state cannot be faulted for the deportation of illegal immigrants (and Abassi was one), to abuse and illegally detain them is a gross violation of all the values that Americans pretend to stand for.

In today’s America, where Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State has refused to rule out creating a country-wide registry of Muslims, the action of the US Supreme Court could balance such abhorrent measures, and create legal precedent to curb racial profiling and illegal detentions in the US. There is legal room to make a decision in favour of the victims. A divided panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the men were detained “as if they were terrorists, in the most restrictive conditions of confinement available, simply because these individuals were, or appeared to be, Arab or Muslim.” The appeals court said that the suit could go forward because “the suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy.” Yet, the case holds too much political baggage, and it seems the American legal system is not above politics.

Mr Trump plans to nominate the ninth Supreme Court Justice shortly and following Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s nominee for an unprecedented 293 days. The aim is to pack the Supreme Court with judges that are more conservative. One of the candidates is Judge William Pryor Jr, who has described the landmark 1974 abortion ruling Roe v Wade as “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history”. The other possibility is the ultra-conservative Judge Diane Sykes, also against women’s rights to birth control and is pro-gun lobby. This makes for a Supreme Court happy to look at minorities with suspicion, allowing the American state to act with impunity. Hard times are ahead for human rights in the US. The case of the 2001 detention will be just an example of things to come and may further tear down the façade of the US being a liberal and tolerant country.