September 3, 2013, New York – Today, in a case filed on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), attorneys argued that video recordings of CCR client Mohammed al Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay should be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. The government possesses tapes of al Qahtani made when he was in solitary confinement immediately prior to a period, detailed in a log published by Time Magazine in 2006, in which al Qahtani was systematically tortured. He is the only Guantanamo prisoner whom the U.S. government has explicitly acknowledged torturing. Al Qahtani’s attorneys at CCR have viewed the tapes, but are prohibited from discussing their contents, including confirming or denying whether they contain footage of abuse.
“Without access to documentation of abuses such as the torture of Mr. al Qahtani, the public is deprived of its best mechanism for holding officials accountable and its most powerful impetus to change policies. The government has already destroyed hundreds of hours of videotape depicting harsh interrogations of prisoners by the CIA, for the express purpose of avoiding public scrutiny. Release of al Qahtani’s tapes will provide a unique opportunity for accountability—one that was lost when those other tapes were destroyed.” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Shayana Kadidal, referring to an order by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., former head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, to destroy 92 video tapes of interrogations at CIA black sites.
Between November 2002 and January 2003, al Qahtani was subjected toforty-eight days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory overstimulation, and other harsh treatment. Al Qahtani was hospitalized twice after coming close to death during his interrogations. Immediately preceding this period, al Qahtani was held in solitary confinement and was videotaped. Those tapes were labeled as classified by the government but copies were shown to Al Qahtani’s lawyers as part of his separate habeas corpus case challenging the legality of his detention at Guantanamo.
“The American people have a right to know what their Government is doing in their name, behind closed doors, to prisoners who have been locked up, isolated, tortured, and never charged with any crime.,” said attorney Larry Lustberg, who argued today.
The case is CCR v. DOD, et al., and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Center for Constitutional Rights is the plaintiff in the case, which is being litigated by Larry Lustberg and Benjamin Yaster of the law firm Gibbons PC, and Professor Sandra Babcock of Northwestern Law School. Today’s hearing was an oral argument on CCR’s motion for summary judgment.
January 3, 2014