February 11, 2008, New York – Military commission charges were handed down that seek the death penalty against Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) client Mohammed al Qahtani. CCR issued the follow statement:
For the past six years, the United States government has refused to conduct traditional criminal trials or courts martial against Guantanamo detainees suspected of wrongdoing.
Instead, the military commissions at Guantanamo allow secret evidence, hearsay evidence, and evidence obtained through torture. They are unlawful, unconstitutional, and a perversion of justice. Now the government is seeking to execute people based on this utterly unreliable and tainted evidence: it is difficult to imagine a more morally reprehensible system. Executions based on secret trials and torture evidence belong to another century. These barbaric sham proceedings are likely to inflame the controversy surrounding Guantanamo and draw the condemnation of even our allies.
Career military officers have already resigned because they could not stomach participating in a military commission system that goes against every principle of justice, due process and the rule of law. In particular, they were opposed to precisely the kinds of issues that will be the focus of Mr. al Qahtani's commission – the United States' use of torture and subsequent efforts to hide the criminal conduct of U.S. personnel.
No military commission against Mr. Al Qahtani will ever achieve justice. Instead, it will deteriorate into a controversy over secret trials and the United States' well-documented torture of Mr. al Qahtani during interrogations at Guantánamo.
Mr. al Qahtani may be the one charged today, but it is the illegality of his interrogation under torture that will be tried in the commission. Regardless of the results, no one will ever have confidence in the outcome of these military commissions. The United States has nothing legitimate to gain from prosecuting prisoners in military commissions at Guantanamo and a great deal to lose.
Our nation must abandon the failed experiment at Guantanamo. If the administration believes Mr. Al Qahtani has committed a crime, he should be charged and tried in a lawful proceeding worthy of our country.
Mohammed Al Qahtani has been at Guantánamo for almost six years. He was subject to the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’ which consisted of a regime of ‘aggressive interrogation methods’ personally approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that constitute torture. These tactics, revealed in a government interrogation log for Mr. Al Qahtani, include:
• Severe sleep deprivation combined with 20-hour interrogations for months at a time
• Threats of rendition to other countries that torture
• Explicit threats made against his family, including female members of his family
• Strip searches, body searches and forced nudity, at times in the presence of female personnel
• Sexual humiliation
• Humiliation by forcing him to bark like a dog, dance with a mask on his face, and pick up piles of trash with his hands cuffed while he was called “a pig”
• Denial of the right to practice his religion, including prohibiting him from praying for prolonged times and during Ramadan
• Threats to desecrate the Koran in front of him
• Attacks by dogs
• Forcible administration of frequent IVs by medical personnel during interrogation
• Being placed in acute stress positions for hours at a time
• Being placed in tight restraints repeatedly for many months or days and nights
• Exposure to low temperatures for extended periods of time
• Exposure to loud music for prolonged times
• At least 160 days of severe isolation
The government's allegations against Mr. al Qahtani are inherently tainted by the stench of torture.
What kind of a nation have we become that we would rely on torture evidence, secret trials and an untested and deeply flawed system to impose the death penalty?
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.