NEW YORK - February 19 - Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) were pleased to hear of the imminent release of five British citizens who have been held for more than two years in the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to the announcement made today by the British Home Secretary, the five to be released within the next two weeks are Mr. Shafiq Rasul, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Mr. Rhuhel Ahmed, Mr. Jamal Udeen, and Mr. Tarek Dergoul.
"While we are truly happy that these individuals are being released," said Michael Ratner, President of the Center, "we remain deeply concerned that these releases have happened after people have been held for more than two years without access to any court or counsel, and without any means whatsoever to have their cases heard." "Such an egregious denial of individuals' human and constitutional rights should never have occurred in the first instance," he added.
Among the five selected for release are two of the individuals who have appeared as plaintiffs in Rasul v. Bush, the case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court which addresses the question of whether detainees held in Guantanamo have the right to appear before a court to seek an assessment of the legality of their detention. Steven MacPherson Watt, the human rights fellow at the Center, noted that "soon after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case this term, the Government announced that it was planning on releasing 140 people from detention in Guantanamo. We have been waiting months for these releases. However, nowhere near the numbers promised by the Government have been released to date."
"Of course, even if the Government had seen fit to release many more people, including all of those named in the lawsuits pending before the Court, the deeply concerning issue of the grave mistreatment of all of those detained would remain. For this reason, the Center will continue its efforts to ensure that everyone receives their day in court and that the proceedings before which any person is brought are fair and just," said Barbara Olshansky, Deputy Legal Director for the Center. Ms. Olshansky also noted that "the announcement today has no effect on the case pending before the Supreme Court in as much as two of the original plaintiffs remain in the case, as well as the 12 Kuwaiti individuals who are plaintiffs in Al Odah, the case consolidated with Rasul before the Court."