NEW YORK, NY -- January 25 -- The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) welcomed the Bush Administrations release today of four British detainees who were held at Guantánamo without charges for nearly three years. However, the rights group reiterated its demand for federal court hearings for all the remaining 550 or more detainees and the closing of the camp. CCR also demanded an independent investigation into the torture and abuse that has been documented at Guantánamo and U.S. facilities elsewhere and for the Administration to cease its unlawful rendition of suspects for interrogation to countries where they will be tortured, as in the case of Mamdouh Habib, whose imminent release is currently being held up by negotiations between the U.S. and Australian Governments over how to transport him home. |
The Center for Constitutional Rights was for two years the first and only legal organization willing to represent detainees against the unlawful detentions at Guantánamo. It brought and won the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that detainees have the right to challenge their detentions in a federal court.
Said CCR President Michael Ratner, These men should have been released a long, long time ago. The entire camp must be closed. It is an American Gulag and we will not be satisfied until this experiment with human lives is ended. Interrogation camps are flatly illegal. Guantánamo has been a torture camp as well. Guantánamo will haunt the U.S. for generations. Detainees in all U.S. detention facilities in Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world .are all entitled to court hearings, to counsel and to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture.
CCR Deputy Legal Director Barbara Olshansky said, The men who were released today have families and governments who had the means to pursue diplomatic and legal avenues to secure their release and are from countries that are political allies of the United States. An estimated 550 more remain at the Guantánamo prison camp with no way to retain counsel and no meaningful access to the courts. With more and more documents from the Center for Constitutional Rights FOIA suit with the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace as well the reports from our clients providing evidence of abuse and torture, we demand a full and independent investigation into the treatment of all the detainees."
CCR Attorney Rachel Meeropol said, "The Bush Administration has consistently flouted the Supreme Courts Guantánamo ruling and has instead created sham tribunals and commissions, which have resulted in delaying all further legal proceedings. Two of the men the government announced it would release, Mamdouh Habib and Feroz Abbasi, were due to be charged before the commissions, which military attorneys have denounced as unlawful. This Administration has done more to undermine the system of checks and balances our country was founded on than any in recent memory."
The four British men are Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Belmar and Moazzam Begg, and the Australian is Mamdouh Habib.
After three years of detention in what have proved to be subhuman conditions, four British citizens and one Australian were released from Guantánamo Bay today. The men were held without charge. Their friends and family endured news of their torture and deteriorating health. They were branded international terrorists and 'bad men.' Yet, after three years of legal battles and public outcry, they have been released without charge, confirming once again the morally and legally bankrupt detention policy of this Administration.
Reports that there are others who will be released from Guantánamo Bay support the longstanding contention of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) that the U.S. has violated fundamental democratic principles by holding prisoners without access to an attorney or a court of law to challenge the basis of their detention. These latest releases reveal another troubling fact - that clearly a number of those arrested, detained, tortured and interrogated for as long as three years had nothing at all to do with terrorism or the war in Afghanistan. The bounties paid by the Government for suspects guaranteed arrests but not corroboration of any person's role in any activity. Without a hearing, the detainees have had no chance to assert their rights or seek justice.
The story of these men reveals precisely what is wrong with the U.S. approach to dealing with terrorism suspects. Torture, arbitrary detention and disregard for international law do not win the struggle for freedom and democracy. The release of Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Belmar, Moazzam Begg and Mamdou Habib, while welcome, does not diminish the plight of hundreds more who remain at Guantánamo. Despite the Supreme Court ruling in our case, Rasul v. Bush, the current Administration has done nothing to ensure that the remaining detainees will have access to the U.S. legal system to determine their guilt or innocence. On the contrary, U.S. authorities at Guantánamo are constructing a permanent prison, one in which two more British permanent residents we represent, Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, languish, and a handful of others, including Australian David Hicks, await trial before commissions that military lawyers have called 'shams.'
The Center for Constitutional Rights reiterates our long-standing call for an independent inquiry into allegations of torture at Guantánamo and other prisons. CCR strongly believes these inquiries should examine the role of military and civilian commanders all the way up the chain of command. Unless the Administration moves to comply with the Supreme Court and provide due process to all those being held at Guantánamo, U.S. citizens and the international community will continue to view these prisons as illegal violations of international law.