UC Berkeley Report Details Shattered Lives of Released Guantánamo Detainees
Study in Partnership with CCR Demands Investigation of ‘War on Terror’ Policies
WASHINGTON - Detainees released from U.S. detention in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and
Afghanistan live shattered lives as a result of U.S. policies in the
"war on terror," according to a new report by human rights experts at
the University of California, Berkeley done in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The report is available below.
The report, Guantánamo and Its Aftermath: U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Detainees,
based on a two-year study, reveals in graphic detail the cumulative
effect of Bush Administration policies on the lives of 62 released
detainees. Many of the prisoners were sold into captivity and subjected
to brutal treatment in U.S. prison camps. Once in Guantánamo, prisoners
were denied access to civilian courts to challenge the legality of
their detention. Almost two-thirds of the former detainees interviewed
reported having psychological problems since leaving Guantánamo.
"The nightmare of Guantánamo did not end with the detainees' release.
Men never convicted of crimes or given the opportunity to clear their
names are suffering from a lasting 'Guantánamo stigma,' and are unable
to find work,'" said Laurel Fletcher, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law and co-author of the report.
Researchers conducted interviews with released detainees in nine
countries. The comprehensive study also includes in-depth interviews
with key government officials, military experts, former guards,
interrogators and other camp personnel.
"Guantánamo, like Abu Ghraib, has become a stain on the reputation of the United States," said Eric Stover, director of the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and co-author of "Guantánamo and Its Aftermath."
The authors call for an independent, nonpartisan commission to lift the
shroud of secrecy from Guantánamo and other detention sites. They
further argue that the commission should have subpoena power and, if
applicable, recommend further investigations of those allegedly
responsible for any crimes committed at all levels of the civilian and
military chain of command.
The authors warn that such a commission should not be undercut by the
issuance of pardons, amnesties, or other measures that would protect
those culpable from accountability. President-Elect Barack Obama has
called for the closure of Guantánamo. The UC Berkeley report asks for
even broader remedies.
"There is no doubt that these men and their families have suffered the
gravest consequences of the Bush Administration's so-called war on
terror," said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. "Overturning the
legal atrocities at Guantánamo and the countless warrantless
infringements of basic rights of detainees is only one step in undoing
the damage done to these men and their families."
Over half of the study respondents who discussed their interrogation
sessions at Guantánamo (31 of 55) characterized them as "abusive."
Detainees reported being subjected to short shackling, stress
positions, prolonged solitary confinement, and exposure to extreme
temperatures, loud music, and strobe lights for extended periods-often
simultaneously. The authors conclude that the cumulative impact of
these methods, especially over time, constitutes cruel, inhumane, and
degrading treatment and, in some cases, rises to the level of torture.
"Carefully researched and devoid of rhetoric, the UC Berkeley report
adds a new chapter to America's dismal descent into the netherworld of
prisoner abuse since the tragic events of 9/11," said the Honorable Patricia Wald, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals and
the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. "It
provides new insights into the lingering consequences of unjust
detention," Wald added.
Most detainees interviewed for the study were not vengeful toward
America, but simply expressed a desire for justice and an opportunity
to clear their names.
"We cannot sweep this dark chapter in our nation's history under the
rug by simply closing the Guantánamo prison camp," Stover said." The
new administration must investigate what went wrong and who should be
held accountable," said Stover.
Of the more than 770 detainees who have endured Guantánamo since it
opened in 2002, over 500 have been released without formal criminal
charges or trial. So far, of the 250 or more who remain in detention,
only 23 have been charged with a crime. Two have been convicted and one
has pled guilty.
The Human Rights Center investigates war crimes and other serious
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. HRC's
empirical studies recommend specific policy measures to hold
perpetrators accountable, protect vulnerable populations, and help
rebuild war-torn societies. More information at http://hrc.berkeley.edu.
The International Human Rights Law Clinic designs and implements
innovative human rights projects to advance the struggle for justice on
behalf of individuals and marginalized communities through advocacy,
research, and policy development. More information at www.humanrightsclinic.org.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years -
sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the
first attorney to meet with a former CIA "ghost detainee." CCR has
been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono
lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo,
ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR
represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument
before the Supreme Court in 2007, which resulted in the landmark
decision declaring habeas corpus a victory for the prisoners there.
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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.