January 14, 2009, New York, NY – Center for Constitutional Rights Attorneys for Guantánamo detainee Mohammed al Qahtani released the following statement in response to news stories today reporting that the head of the military commissions at Guantánamo revealed that she would not charge him because his treatment at the base was torture.
As the subject of Donald Rumsfeld’s extreme First Special Interrogation Plan, Mohammed al Qahtani was tortured by U.S. authorities at Guantánamo for a prolonged period and suffers physical and mental trauma as a result. He should be sent back to Saudi Arabia’s highly successful custodial rehabilitation program.
Mohammed al Qahtani is an individual case with a concrete solution. Yet he is being held up in the media as an example of a theoretical group of detainees remaining at the base who the government somehow knows are guilty but cannot prosecute because the only evidence against them is tainted by torture. This premise is faulty and leads to dangerous justifications for creating yet another alternate process outside the law, be it a special “national security court” or schemes for continued indefinite detention that would only amount to another Guantánamo in a new location.
The fact is, if the only evidence against an individual is obtained through torture, there is no reliable evidence. Period. Professional interrogators say that when you torture a suspect he will tell you what you want to hear, not what you want to know. There are numerous examples of false confessions obtained at Guantánamo and wherever else coercive interrogations have been used. Moreover, it is unlikely that there are cases of dangerous individuals where the only evidence was obtained through torture. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, for example, bragged about his deeds long before he was captured. Indeed, he has a pending indictment in federal criminal court.
In addition, many men accused by the government of worse crimes than most of the remaining detainees have been released to freedom or, in the cases of Salim Hamdan and David Hicks, released after time served.
Any case going forward must be tried in ordinary federal criminal courts or it will raise doubts about its legitimacy the world over. Our courts have successfully prosecuted scores of terrorism-related cases, and there is no reason to think they could not handle any coming out of Guantanamo.
Closing Guantánamo is not the insurmountable task it is being made out to be. The government must send those who can go home home, find safe haven for those who cannot, and charge those who can be charged in our criminal justice system. The men there have been held indefinitely in abusive conditions for seven years already. We must act now.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007.