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CCR Condemns Proposed Restrictions on Attorney Access to Clients at Guantanamo Bay

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The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents many of the detainees at Guantánamo and coordinates the work of nearly 500 pro bono attorneys, issued the following statement in response to the new restrictions on attorneys’ access to their clients at Guantánamo proposed by the Justice Department in the case Bismullah v. Rumsfeld.

“The new rules proposed by the Justice Department – to limit attorneys’ access to their clients at Guantánamo, monitor attorney-client correspondence, and expand individual officials’ powers to classify evidence and prevent attorneys (who are security cleared) from seeing it – are the latest effort to turn Guantánamo into an off-shore penal colony where bedrock legal principles and the rule of law do not apply. We have fought and won many of those battles in the last five years, and the government is trying to turn back the clock."

"The government’s claim that attorneys’ visits to Guantánamo are what has caused ‘intractable problems and threats to security’ is through the looking glass. We fail to see how interviewing our clients has caused more problems than the government’s own treatment of the detainees, including detaining the men for more than five years in abusive and inhumane conditions with no hope of trial and providing them with sham hearings rather than allowing them to contest their detentions fairly in the courts."

Given the detainees’ treatment at the hands of the U.S. and consistent reports that interrogators have posed as attorneys in the past, it can take multiple attorney visits to establish the trust required to move forward. In addition, many of the men at the base are suffering severe psychological problems, a vast number are held in solitary lockdown 23 hours a day, and their only real human contact is with their lawyers. Attorney visits seem to have ended the more gross forms of abuse that occurred at the base in the early days before lawyers were permitted access—documented use of dogs, sexual humiliation and beatings. To return the base to darkness would only promote further abuse.

"This latest salvo in the government’s war to discredit attorneys is not a new tactic. At every turn, government officials have tried to blame attorneys for the disastrous results of its own policies—abusive interrogation tactics, indefinite detention, and the denial of habeas corpus."

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.