For Immediate Release
Government Admits Guantánamo Detainee Mohammed al Qahtani’s Torture Videotaped
CCR Blasts Government for Failing to Disclose Existence of Videotapes for Seven Years
existence of video and audio tapes of the abusive interrogations of
client Mohammed al Qahtani, the victim of the "First Special
Interrogation Plan" personally overseen by former Secretary of Defense
"After the intense scrutiny of the government's torture and
interrogation of Mr. al Qahtani, it is shocking that the government has
hidden the existence of these tapes from the public for so many years,"
said CCR Attorney Gitanjali S. Gutierrez.
"The government's interrogation of him has been the topic of multiple
military, Justice Department and congressional investigations. These
tapes should have been acknowledged long ago."
Until recently, the Government had adamantly denied that any U.S.
personnel engaged in acts of torture during Mr. al Qahtani's
interrogation, but on January 14, 2009, Military Commission Convening
Authority Susan Crawford conceded that by subjecting Mr. al Qahtani to
systematic 20-hour interrogations, prolonged sleep deprivation, 160
days of severe isolation, forced nudity, sexual and religious
humiliation, and other aggressive interrogation tactics, the government
had engaged in acts of torture. Much of this information appeared in
interrogation logs leaked to the press as early as 2006
Said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren, "Mr.
al Qahtani's torture is already well-established, with a clear paper
trail that leads all the way up the chain of command to the desk of
Donald Rumsfeld. The revelation of these tapes indicates the government
carefully documented horrific evidence of torture and abuse at
Guantánamo. The only question that remains is whether the people
ultimately responsible for it will be held accountable for breaking the
law and breaking faith with our system of justice."
Mr. Al Qahtani has been incarcerated at Guantánamo since February 2002.
Throughout his imprisonment, he has consistently maintained that he was
repeatedly tortured and threatened with torture by U.S. military and
civilian interrogators. And since Mr. al Qahtani filed his habeas
petition in October 2006, he has continued to assert that any alleged
admissions he made to U.S. personnel were extracted through this
torture and threats of torture.
The government never disclosed the existence of these tapes as
exculpatory information in Mr. al Qahtani's habeas case. CCR had filed
a motion in February 2009 to compel the government to turn over
exculpatory evidence in their client's case and to hold the government
in contempt for it's "flagrant violation" of a judge's November 2008
order to do so. Judge Thomas F. Hogan issued an order in November 2008
(amended in December 2008) requiring the government to turn over
promptly any exculpatory evidence it had on the men detained at
Guantánamo to their attorneys. The government filed what was
essentially a second motion for an extension of time on January 30,
2009. Since the original filing in June 2008, the government has twice
delayed its compliance with the court's orders, engaging in what CCR
attorneys described as "improper self-help by granting itself an
indefinite extension of time."
Finally, CCR and co-counsel, Sandra Babcock, filed a motion for
discovery in March 2009 seeking any video tapes of Mr. al Qahtani's
interrogation and numerous other records. After seven months of
discovery disputes, the court issued the publicly-filed order today.
The videotapes the government is required to produce will reveal the
time period at the end of three months of intensive solitary
confinement and isolation that immediately preceded the implementation
of the "First Special Interrogation Plan," a regime of systematic
torture techniques approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld for use against Mr. al Qahtani. In a letter to his superiors
reporting possible abuse of men in U.S. custody, T.J. Harrington,
Deputy Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, FBI described Mr.
al Qahtani during this time as "evidencing behavior consistent with
extreme psychological trauma (talking to non-existent people,
reportedly hearing voices, crouching in a corner of the cell covered
with a sheet for hours on end)."
Mr. al Qahtani is represented by CCR and co-counsel Professor Sandra
Babcock, Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University
School of Law.
For more information on Mohammed al Qahtani's case, click here.
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" there. 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. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the
approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot
return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
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.