June 25, 2014, New York – Today, in a case filed on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), attorneys argued to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that videotapes of Guantánamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani should be released to the public. Some of the tapes depict al Qahtani during a period when he was held in solitary confinement, immediately prior to a period in which he was systematically tortured. Others depict intelligence debriefings of al Qahtani. He is the only Guantánamo prisoner the U.S. government has explicitly acknowledged torturing.
“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,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Shayana Kadidal, referring to an order by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, to destroy 92 video tapes
of interrogations at CIA black sites. “This sort of evidence is the best hope for holding officials accountable and ensuring that such abuse never happens again.”
Al Qahtani was the victim of the pentagon’s “First Special Interrogation Plan” —a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques amounting to torture authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Between November 2002 and January 2003, al Qahtani was subjected to 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual and religious humiliation, physical violence, prolonged stress positions, and sensory overstimulation, among other abuses. He was hospitalized twice after coming close to death while being interrogated. His treatment was partially detailed in a military interrogation log
published by Time Magazine
in 2006. Al Qahtani’s attorneys at CCR have viewed some of the tapes (in a separate legal case
challenging his detention), but are prohibited from disclosing or discussing their contents in any way.
“In a democracy the voting public must be allowed to see with its own eyes the way their government has treated men at Guantánamo,” said attorney Lawrence S. 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, filed against the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the CIA based on their failure to turn over the videotapes pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request made on behalf of CCR in 2010. The case is being litigated by Lawrence S. Lustberg and Joseph A. Pace of the law firm Gibbons PC, and Professor Sandra Babcock of Northwestern Law School.
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.