In New York, on February 24, 2006 a new round of reviews of the Guantánamo Bay detainees began, but attorneys say the United States government is flouting military and international law by preventing any meaningful consideration of proposed evidence and denying information to the detainees’ attorneys. Experts from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the organization currently overseeing 450 pro-bono attorneys representing the detainees, expressed outrage about this violation of due process and pointed to a new federal court decision vindicating their calls for transparent and fair hearings.
On February 23, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ordered the Department of Defense to release the names of hundreds of detainees and uncensored transcripts of their hearings by March 3, dealing a major blow to the government's attempts to maintain total secrecy over its detainment process. The Pentagon has said it will comply.
CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman explained why the U.S. government record on Guantánamo is drawing fire from the courts and many attorneys involved in the proceedings: "For five years now, the government has detained prisoners without due process; lied about who these people are; concealed their treatment from the public and denied basic information to the very people who are authorized to represent the detainees. This Administration prefers to operate in the shadows, but Judge Rakoff's ruling helps shine a light that can make this process to be more open and democratic. As the facts finally get out, we expect even more people will be outraged by this illegal process, which we continue to fight in court."
CCR is challenging the detentions during the government's Annual Review Board (ARB) meetings, arguing that the government has made a fair hearing impossible by denying access to the Guantánamo base or basic information and factual returns. Thus, attorneys have no information or notice to rebut the government's statements or potential findings against the detainees. The ARB's were designed to function like a parole board and have led to the release of a handful of detainees. In what is expected to be the largest number to date, CCR is filing ARB's for about 120 detainees, including a challenge to the lack of due process and the legitimacy of the proceedings.
CCR Deputy Legal Director Barbara Olshansky explained that the ARB proceedings are completely illegitimate: "These proceedings provide no due process, which reveals they are sham trials designed to prevent people from proving their innocence."
According to recent estimates, the government is currently detaining about 500 prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. CCR won the Supreme Court case establishing the detainees' right to challenge their detention in U.S. court (Rasul v. Bush).
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.