Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner - and the winner of this year's Puffin/Nation Prize - was recently interviewed by truthout on Guantanamo as well as the CIA's destruction of tapes that document torture. Visit truthout.org to watch the interview and read the accompanying article below.
Michael Ratner on Missing CIA Tapes, Torture and the Supreme Court
By Matt Renner
t r u t h o u t | Report
Thursday 20 December 2007
I sat down with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), to talk about his work on behalf of prisoners in the so-called War on Terror. His organization, a nonprofit legal advocacy group, has been fighting for the rights of Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were captured and detained since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Recent revelations of waterboarding by the CIA and the destruction of interrogation tapes have pushed the debate over torture back into the national spotlight. CCR lawyers, along with others, have been collecting testimony from prisoners at Guantanamo about their mistreatment and torture. Ratner believes that the Bush administration has been fighting to keep prisoners accused of terrorism-related activity out of court in order to prevent further evidence and testimony of torture from becoming public.
Ratner's organization was directly affected by the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes that apparently showed the use of torture against terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah. A judge ordered the CIA to preserve any documents that could serve as evidence of torture in a case being brought by CCR on behalf of Majid Khan. A former resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Kahn was held and interrogated at secret detention facilities and at Guantanamo. The destroyed tapes could be relevant to the case, according to Ratner, because they may have shown that confessions or evidence against prisoners at Guantanamo was obtained through torture.
A recent ruling in the Kahn case will force the Bush administration to respond publicly to allegations that Kahn was tortured while in US custody. The redacted and highly disturbing account of Kahn's experience can be read here. The Bush administration's response is due by December 20.
CCR has been at the forefront of litigation seeking to define the status of prisoners at Guantanamo and at secret military prisons across the world. CCR has played an integral role in the three Guantanamo cases that have been heard before the Supreme Court, including the recent Boumediene v. Bush, argued on December 5. In the Boumediene case, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether Guantanamo prisoners have habeas corpus rights. A ruling in the case is expected by mid-2008.
This decision could be a defining moment for CCR, which was the first organization to challenge Bush administration policies on the treatment and detention of prisoners captured in the days after September 11, 2001.
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.