January 18, 2010, New York – An article published today in Harper’s Magazine by Scott Horton raises grave questions about the manner in which three prisoners died in Guantanamo in June 2006, two of whom are plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the deceased and their families, Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld. While the current and former administrations have consistently maintained that the deaths were suicides, new facts, including interviews with four former soldiers stationed at the base at the time of the deaths, raise questions about the government’s claims and about the continued role of the Obama administration in keeping information about the deaths from the public and the families of the men.
CCR Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, lead counsel in the civil case surrounding the deaths, which charges the government and 24 federal officials with responsibility for the abuse and wrongful death of the deceased, said, "President Obama’s Department of Justice has tried to keep our case out of the courts, beyond the reach of the legal system and any oversight or accountability. It is critical that the full story of how our clients died and who was responsible be brought to light in open court before an impartial judge. Serious gaps and questions remain, more than three years after the deaths."
In December, the U.S. government filed reply papers in support of its motion to dismiss Al-Zahrani, arguing that no federal court has the power to hear cases seeking accountability for abuse of detainees at Guantánamo. The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the suit on behalf of the families of Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, two detained men found dead at the base in June 2006.
CCR’s complaint, the government briefs and other court documents can be found here on the case page for Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. 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. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 50 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
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.