ACLU: New Prisoner Abuse Photos! Being Released By Defense Dept!

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Government Should Make Bagram Documents Public, Says ACLU

American Civil Liberties Union
(4/23/2009)

Group Files FOIA Request For Records About Detention And Treatment Of Prisoners At Afghanistan Detention Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Obama administration to make public records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the number of people currently detained at Bagram and their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

“The U.S. government’s detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy. Bagram houses far more prisoners than Guantánamo, in reportedly worse conditions and with an even less meaningful process for challenging their detention, yet very little information about the Bagram facility or the prisoners held there has been made public,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “Without transparency, we can’t be sure that we’re doing the right thing – or even holding the right people – at Bagram.”

Recent news reports suggest that the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.

“When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “Now that President Obama has taken the positive step of ordering Guantánamo shut down, it is critical that we don’t permit ‘other Gitmos’ to continue elsewhere.”

The ACLU’s request is addressed to the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.

A federal judge recently ruled that three prisoners being held by the U.S. at Bagram can challenge their detention in U.S. courts, in habeas corpus suits brought by the International Justice Network, Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the National Litigation Project of Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. The prisoners, who were captured outside of Afghanistan and are not Afghan citizens, have been held there for more than six years without charge or access to counsel. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.

The ACLU’s FOIA request, including a complete list of documents being requested, is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/39441lgl20090423.html

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Defense Department To Release Prisoner Abuse Photos By May 28 In Response To ACLU Lawsuit

American Civil Liberties Union
(4/23/2009)

Photos Depict Abuse Of Prisoners By U.S. Personnel In Iraq And Afghanistan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – In a letter addressed to a federal court today, the Department of Defense announced that it will make public by May 28 a “substantial number” of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. personnel. The photos, which are being released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004, include images from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan at locations other than Abu Ghraib.

“These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib,” said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. “Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.”

The letter follows a September 2008 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit requiring disclosure of the photos and the court’s subsequent refusal in March 2009 to rehear the case. The Defense Department has indicated that it will not ask the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s ruling.

Since the ACLU’s FOIA request in 2003, the Bush administration had refused to disclose these images by attempting to radically expand the exemptions allowed under the FOIA for withholding records. The administration claimed that the public disclosure of such evidence would generate outrage and would violate U.S. obligations towards detainees under the Geneva Conventions.

However, a three judge panel of the appeals court in September 2008 rejected the Bush administration’s attempt to use exemptions to the FOIA as “an all-purpose damper on global controversy” and recognized the “significant public interest in the disclosure of these photographs” in light of government misconduct. The court also recognized that releasing the photographs is likely to prevent “further abuse of prisoners.” The Bush administration subsequently requested that the full Court of Appeals rehear the case. That request was denied on March 11, 2009.

“The disclosure of these photographs serves as a further reminder that abuse of prisoners in U.S.-administered detention centers was systemic,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “Some of the abuse occurred because senior civilian and military officials created a culture of impunity in which abuse was tolerated, and some of the abuse was expressly authorized. It’s imperative that senior officials who condoned or authorized abuse now be held accountable for their actions.”

The Department of Defense letter is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/39453lgl20090423.html

To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit. They are available online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia

Many of these documents are also compiled and analyzed in “Administration of Torture,” a book by Jaffer and Singh. More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/administrationoftorture

In addition to Jaffer and Singh, attorneys on the case are Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jenny Brooke Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

see

Countdown: Waterboarding Is Torture + Olbermann Offers $1000 A SECOND To Hannity’s Waterboarding Charity Event

Attorney General Holder Says He Will “Follow The Law” And Investigate Torture + A Quarter Million Americans Demand Torture Prosecutions

Christopher Hitchens Gets Waterboarded (2008)

Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two) by Andy Worthington

Countdown: How America Became A Torture Nation

2 thoughts on “ACLU: New Prisoner Abuse Photos! Being Released By Defense Dept!

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