Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lawsuit Seeks Release of Videotapes of Gitmo Torture Victim

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which "has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last 10 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation," released the following press release last Monday.

CCR is seeking the release of videotapes and photos of the torture of Mohammed al Qahtani, the only Guantanamo prisoner the government admits was tortured. The existence of the videotapes came to light due when "CCR and co-counsel, Sandra Babcock, filed a motion for discovery in March 2009 seeking any video tapes of Mr. al Qahtani’s interrogation and numerous other records." After seven months of litigation, a US judge ordered the government to produce the tapes and photos (47 photos and at least one video).

The filing comes on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison torture "strategic interrogation" center, called a "Battle Lab" for interrogation by officials of the US government.
CCR Decries Lack of Transparency, Stresses Public's Right to See Tapes

January 9, 2012, Washington, D.C. – Today the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking public disclosure of video tapes of Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi citizen who has been detained in Guantánamo for nearly 10 years. Mr. al Qahtani was the victim of the pentagon’s “First Special Interrogation Plan” —a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques amounting to torture authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. al Qahtani’s treatment – which included a litany of abusive techniques ranging from severe sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, isolation, threats by military dogs, exposure to extreme temperatures and religious and sexual humiliation - was partially detailed in a military interrogation log leaked to Time Magazine on March 2, 2006. As a result of this treatment, the senior U.S. official in charge of military commissions determined that U.S. personnel tortured Mr. al Qahtani. Mr. al Qahtani’s attorneys have viewed some of the tapes but are not allowed to discuss the contents. The lawsuit argues it is crucial for the public interest that the tapes be publicly released.

“The story of Mohammed al Qahtani summarizes everything that is abhorrent about Guantanamo,” said Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy. “Yet 10 years after the opening of the prison camp, the whole story, in all its horror, still remains to be told. The American people are entitled to know exactly how the government has betrayed fundamental American values and the rule of law. That will not happen until these videotapes are released.”

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is brought against the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the CIA, based upon their failure to turn over the videotapes pursuant to a FOIA request made on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2010.

Mr. al Qahtani was seized in December 2001 and transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba shortly thereafter. Almost seven years later, the Convening Authority for Military Commissions dismissed all charges against al Qahtani because it found he had been tortured, but left open the possibility that he would be re-charged at a later time. To this date, Mr. al Qahtani is still in Guantánamo and no charges have been filed against him.

Lawrence S. Lustberg and Alicia L. Bannon from Gibbons, P.C. and Sandra L. Babcock from the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Law School are co-counsel in this case.

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