|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FEBRUARY 11, 2005
|CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights
Mahdis Keshavarz, 212-260-5000
CCR and Pro-Bono Counsel File Suit on Behalf of More Than 500 John Does at Guantanamo
NEW YORK -- February 11 -- Attorneys filed a petition for habeas corpus late yesterday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the hundreds of unrepresented people who remain detained by the United States Government at Guantánamo Bay. These nameless detainees join more than 70 whose cases challenging their continued imprisonment are already being addressed in federal court.
The suit, spearheaded by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), is captioned John Does Nos. 1-570 v. Bush because the Bush Administration has continued to withhold the identities of the detainees it keeps in indefinite detention. Until now, without the names of the detainees and without physical access to them, lawyers have been unable to help those who wish to seek their day in court under the Supreme Courts decision last June in Rasul v. Bush. In that case, also brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Supreme Court held that each detainee has the right to challenge his detention in federal court. Seven months later, the Bush administration continues to disregard the Supreme Courts decision by blocking the detainees from meaningful access to attorneys or the courts.
We call these petitioners John Does, explained CCR Deputy Legal Director Barbara Olshansky, because they have no names and no faces. They have been disappeared by an Administration that shows as little regard for an order of the Supreme Court as it does for international law and human rights. CCR has repeatedly asked the Bush Administration for access to the detainees to advise them of their rights and help them retain counsel; without such assistance the detainees lack the practical means to take advantage of the rights recognized by the Supreme Court in Rasul. While over 70 Guantánamo detainees have lawsuits now pending in the D.C. District Court, Olshansky explained, those petitions were actually brought by detainees family members. The vast majority of the detainees at Guantánamo have not been able to communicate with loved ones who have the ability to contact lawyers in the U.S. For all those who remain unrepresented, todays lawsuit is a giant step forward. It means that they now actually do have their claims pending before a federal court on exactly the same basis as their fellow inmates.
We have tried to negotiate fair access to these individuals with officials from the Justice Department and the Department of Defense, explained Gary Isaac, one of the lead attorneys in the pro bono team of habeas co-counsel on the case. But the Administration has repeatedly rejected our requests. All we are asking is that each and every individual at Guantánamo get his day in court to challenge his imprisonment, precisely as the Supreme Court ordered last June. If these detainees have broken the law, or are truly dangerous terrorists, let the Government come forward and present its evidence to a federal court.
Rachel Meeropol, another attorney on the case from CCR, explained that the organization felt unable to delay filing the case any longer: Each day we hear new reports about the sickening abuse that has occurred, and continues to occur, at Guantánamo. I dont believe that the people of this country support torture and secret executive detention, and yet these practices continue in our name. How many more stories of abuse will we have to hear before we hold the Bush Administration accountable to the rule of law?
Meeropol went on to say, "We hope that the filing of this document will not only force the U.S. Government to do what it has long promised to do, but will also encourage anyone around the world who thinks they may have a loved one at Guantánamo to contact the Center for Constitutional Rights at 212.614.6439 or firstname.lastname@example.org"
Joseph Margulies, lead counsel for the petitioners in the Rasul litigation, is also co-counsel on behalf of the petitioners.