For Immediate Release
US: Revoke Guantanamo Ban on Four Journalists
Pentagon’s Action Further Discredits Military Commissions
WASHINGTON - The US Defense Department's decision to ban four journalists from
covering military commission proceedings at Guantanamo Bay contradicts
the Obama administration's pledge of greater transparency and further
discredits the commissions, Human Rights Watch and other organizations
said in a letter to the
Department of Defense today.
The banned journalists are Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald,
Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of the Globe
and Mail, and Steven Edwards of Canwest News Service.
On May 7, Col. David Lapan, the Defense Department's director of
press operations, informed the four that they were barred from returning
to Guantanamo because they had revealed the name of a witness who had
testified during hearings for Omar Khadr,
a Canadian who is being prosecuted for allegedly killing a US soldier
during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old.
The witness was known to the court only as "Interrogator No. 1," but
his identity was already known to the public because he had been
convicted for detainee abuse in a widely publicized court-martial in
2005. The witness had also previously given an on-the-record interview
to Shephard of the Toronto Star.
"Banning journalists for revealing the name of a witness whose
identity was already publicly known is a pointless and vindictive form
of censorship," said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at
Human Rights Watch. "It makes it seem like the Pentagon is trying to
clamp down on reporting that is the public's only source of critical
information about Guantanamo."
In addition to Human Rights Watch, the letter was signed by the
American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights
First, and the National Institute of Military Justice, all of whom
attend the military commissions on a regular basis.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.