Watching the Shadows
Lawyers for two Guantánamo detainees, arguing before the European Court of Human Rights on Dec. 3, accused Poland of providing a secret torture site for the Central Intelligence Agency's "extraordinary rendition" program. The case involves 48-year-old Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national facing terror charges in connection with the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and 42-year-old Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian who has never been charged with a crime. According to their lawyers, Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah were victims of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" and waterboarding techniques, as well as mock executions. Crofton Black, a researcher with the human rights organization Reprieve and witness to the closed trial, called the Polish government's investigation into the matter nothing more than a smoke-screen.
The attorney for Belkacem Bensayah and Djamel Ameziane, two Algerian detainees being held in Guantánamo Bay said on Nov. 29 the two will oppose their release back to Algeria, which could take place as early as this week. The two claim they would likely face persecution should they be released back to their home country. The US is bound by its international obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, as well as other international conventions, to prevent returning a national to a state where he or she will likely face persecution or torture. Bensayah has requested he be released to Bosnia, while Ameziane has asked to be released to Canada.
Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (AKA Abu Omar) has gone on trial in absentia in Italy on charges of criminal association with the goal of terrorism and aiding illegal emigration with the goal of terrorism, based on an investigation from 2002. Before the investigation could be concluded and charges filed, Nasr was kidnapped from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, through the US Central Intelligence Agency's "extraordinary rendition" program. Prosecutors requested a prison sentence of six years and eight months for Nasr's alleged role in organizing false documents in order to recruit people for a terror camp. A verdict is expected within the next month.
Doctors and psychologists working in US military detention centers helped to design methods of torture for terrorism suspects, according to an independent report supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations that was released Nov. 4. The report, entitled "Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror," examines various charges that the Department of Defense (DoD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "improperly demanded that US military and intelligence agency health professionals collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in US custody." Such methods, the report asserts, forced doctors to violate ethical and medical principles in order to inflict "torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" on detainees. While acknowledging that some steps toward improvement have been taken by the DoD in recent years, the report urges that further changes need to be made so that medical professionals are not made to undermine their own ethical standards.
The lawyer for five Guantánamo Bay prisoners charged with plotting the September 11 attacks has asked President Barack Obama to declassify the CIA interrogation program that allegedly subjected prisoners to torture. The letter (PDF), made public on Oct. 25, calls upon Obama to make the details of the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program public. This program has been linked to certain interrogation techniques that have been said constitute torture. In the letter, the lawyer for the defendants argues:
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled (PDF) Oct. 7 that the Detainee Treatment Act prevents the court from having jurisdiction over a former Guantánamo Bay detainee's lawsuit for damages. Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese national, was captured in 2002 and transferred to Guantánamo prior to an agreement an agreement to transfer him to Sudan in 2007. Hamad states that that he was wrongfully detained and subjected to torture while held and filed the lawsuit to seek damages stemming from his detention. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's orders and directed the district court to render a judgment dismissing the lawsuit. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2001 ruled that Hamad could not continue to litigate a habeas corpus petition and refused to order the government to rescind their designations as "enemy combatants."
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Oct. 24 upheld the conviction (PDF) of ex-Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa. Ghailani had appealed his conviction on the premise that his constitutional rights to a speedy trial had been violated by his lengthy detainment and interrogation by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Although the interrogation techniques that were used remain classified, the CIA has justified this practice as an effort to gain "critical, real-time intelligence about terrorist networks and plots." This appeal provided the court an opportunity to consider, and ultimately provide support for, the legal implications of US efforts to gain intelligence from terrorism suspects before prosecuting them. Ghailani's lawyer has said that he will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
A military judge on Oct. 2 refused to suspend the pretrial hearings in a case against five Guantánamo Bay prisoners related to the 9-11 terrorist attack. Army Col. James Pohl reasoned that the measures taken to respond to the defendants' concerns were adequate to continue the hearings. The defense team claimed that the government's computer network was not secure. The lawyers alleged that confidential data, e-mails and private research went missing or were erroneously sent to the prosecution. The US Department of Defense stated that it will address the concerns. The next pretrial hearing is set for October 22 while no trial date is set.