Advocates of CIA Torture Victims Demand: 'Charge Them, Or Let Them Go'
'It is the use of torture against these men, rather than any danger that they might pose, which is going to condemn them to a life in prison,' says Vijay Prashad
In the wake of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's bombshell report last week, advocates for those who were victims of the CIA's brutal torture program have taken up a renewed call: "Charge them or let them go."
In a piece published on Monday, Helen Duffy, attorney for Abu Zubaydah, who was held and tortured at a CIA black site in Poland and is now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, argues that since the rendition and torture of detainees has now been brought to light, it's time for "truth, justice, and accountability."
"It is time for victims of rendition such as Abu Zubaydah to be brought within the legal framework, to be either tried or released, to have the wrongs again them redressed, and for those responsible to be held to account," Duffy writes.
According to Duffy, there are over 1,000 references to Zubaydah in the so-called torture report and, as the "first victim of the CIA's detention program," he is "the only prisoner known to have been subject to all" of the CIA's torture techniques.
And despite having allegations of being "the third or fourth man in al-Qaeda" now publicly dismissed, Zubaydah continues to be held with no criminal charges, no trial, and no plan for trial. Instead, the CIA, as noted in the report, asked that he "remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life."
The Senate report acknowledges that the CIA knew of "at least 26" CIA prisoners who were "wrongfully held," including an "intellectually challenged man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage." And "due to poor CIA record keeping,” the report notes, "all full accounting of how many specific CIA detainees were held and how they were specifically treated while in custody may never be known."
Advocates for Guantanamo detainee and torture victim Shaker Aamer on Monday published an open letter in the Daily Mail calling for the British resident, who was one of the 55 prisoners cleared for release by an earlier Obama task force, to be freed.
Aamer, who was first imprisoned at Bagram Air Base and now Guantanamo, has been in U.S. custody since 2001. He has been a "regular victim of brutal force-feedings, and he has been beaten by the 'forcible cell extraction' team more than 300 times," as noted by Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the UK-based rights group Reprieve.
However, as Indian historian and journalist Vijay Prashad argued in a piece published last week, the torture that these men experienced will likely only further hinder their chances of being freed.
The U.S., Prashad writes, "is stuck with a serious problem." What to do with people, such as Zubaydah and Aamer, who had been tortured at CIA "black sites" for years?
"There was no way to move Abu Zubaydah into the 'normal' U.S. judicial system, since most of the evidence against him had been gleaned by torture," said Prashad. "It is the use of torture against these men, rather than any danger that they might pose, which is going to condemn them to a life in prison— either Guantánamo or else in a US maximum security prison."
On Friday, Army Colonel James L. Pohl, who is overseeing the September 11th mass murder trial, ordered prosecutors to reexamine evidence sealed up in the court record to assess what the public can now see in light of revelations in the Senate torture report.
The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg reports: "Defense lawyers want details of what was done to the men — and for the public to see it along with the military jury—in order to challenge case evidence. Also, if the accused terrorists are convicted, they want to use the details to argue against their military execution."