Rights groups condemn US “disappearances”

Six human rights groups have issued a list of 39 people purportedly imprisoned by the United States in secret, the whereabouts of whom are unknown, and have called upon the Bush administration to suspend its policy of “disappearances.” US officials defend these measures, saying that it is often essential that terrorist networks do not learn of such detentions ahead of planned operations. [NYT, June 7]

A suspected al-Qaeda member, Abdullah Sudi Arale, has been transferred to the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay, after being detained in the Horn of Africa. He is accused of smuggling arms and explosives to al-Qaida operatives in East Africa and Pakistan. [BBC, June 7]

From Madrid11.net Security Briefs, June 7

See our last post on the torture and detainment controversy.

  1. FOIA case on the “disappeared”
    From the Center for Constitutional Rights, June 7:

    CCR Files Lawsuit Seeking Information about “Ghost” Detentions
    On June 7, 2007, Amnesty International U.S.A. (AIUSA), The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Human Rights Clinic of NYU School of Law today filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking disclosure of information concerning “disappeared” detainees, including “ghost” and unregistered prisoners.

    AIUSA, CCR and the NYU International Human Rights Clinic filed FOIA requests with several U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Justice and Defense, and the CIA. These FOIA requests sought information about individuals who are-or have been-held by, or with the involvement of, the U.S. government, where there is no public record of the detentions. Though a few departments produced documents containing little relevant information, no agency provided a list of secretly-held detainees or an assessment of the legality of the secret program.

    The documents that the groups are seeking are known to exist. President Bush publicly acknowledged the existence of CIA-operated secret prisons in September 2006; 14 detainees from these facilities were transferred to Guantanamo, and the U.S. Department of Justice has issued an analysis concluding that the secret detention program is legal.

    Yet information about the location of the prisons, identity of the prisoners, and the types of interrogation methods used, has never been publicly revealed. This prevents scrutiny by the public or the courts, and leaves detainees vulnerable to abuses that include torture and other ill-treatment.

    The secrecy surrounding the program also means that no one outside the U.S. government knows exactly how many prisoners have been detained and how many remain “disappeared.” The April 2007 transfer of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi from CIA custody to Guantanamo indicates that the program continues to operate, although some prisoners may have been transferred to prisons in other countries, possibly as a form of proxy detention. Off the Record indicates that some missing detainees may have been moved to countries where they face the risk of torture and where they continue to be held secretly, without charge or trial.

    Interviews with prisoners who have been released from secret CIA prisons indicate that low-level detainees have frequently been arrested far from any battlefield, and held in isolation for years without legal recourse or contact with their families or outside agencies. Those who have been released have received no acknowledgment of their detention or any legal or financial redress.