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Updated 05/25/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—May 25, 2007

1. Amnesty International condemns war-on-terror human rights abuses
2. U.S. Navy officer sentenced for leaking Guantánamo Bay prisoner list
3. Bush administration backs down on limits for Guantánamo lawyers
4. Convicted Australian Guantánamo prisoner returns to home country

1. Amnesty International condemns war-on-terror human rights abuses
In its annual human rights report, released May 23, Amnesty International sharply criticized the United States for “a global web of abuse … in the name of counterterrorism.” The organization specifically condemned the existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, failure to hold government officials accountable for approving torture, the transfer of terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture, and other human rights violations. The report also stressed that other countries are more likely to abuse human rights when the United States does, because of the vast U.S. influence on the world stage. [Democracy Now!, 5/24/07; AP, 5/24/07; Amnesty International Annual Report 2007: United States of America]

2. U.S. Navy officer sentenced for leaking Guantánamo Bay prisoner list
A military jury on May 17 sentenced Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz to six months in prison for leaking the names of 550 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in January 2005. Diaz sent a list of the detainees to the Center for Constitutional Rights after he learned the Bush administration was resisting a lawsuit by the organization to release the names. He cited adherence to international law as his motive, but regretted his action, saying he should have expressed his concerns to superior officers. The prosecution sought a sentence of seven years and the jury was allowed to return a sentence of up to 13 years. Diaz also is to be dishonorably discharged. [Guardian, 5/18/07; Miami Herald, 5/19/07]

3. Bush administration backs down on limits for Guantánamo lawyers
The U.S. Justice Department on May 11 rescinded its appeals court request to limit attorneys to three visits with detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The Bush administration had previously cited security concerns, but said the restriction was no longer necessary. Justice Department lawyers are requesting a number of other controversial limitations, including permitting only one visit for prospective attorneys, the right to screen attorney mail to detainees, and allowing government officials to unilaterally decide if secret evidence will be released to defense lawyers. In oral arguments before the court on May 15, two of the three judges indicated they were concerned about denying prisoners access to all evidence used to designate them as enemy combatants. [NYT, 5/11/07; Reuters, 5/11/07; Reuters, 5/15/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 4/27/05]

4. Convicted Australian Guantánamo prisoner returns to home country
David Hicks, an Australian prisoner held at the Guantánamo Bay detention center for more than five years, was returned on May 20 to his home country, where he will remain in prison until the end of 2007. Hicks returned to Australia as part of a plea agreement with military authorities, as he was the first prisoner to be tried under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Hicks pled guilty to providing material support to al-Qaeda and is required to serve the remainder of his sentence in Australia. As part of the plea agreement Hicks was required to sign a statement that he was never treated illegally while in custody, will not take legal action against the United States for his imprisonment, and will not speak about his imprisonment to the media for one year. However, Australia’s Attorney General Philip Ruddock said that Australia would not enforce a media gag order once Hicks is released from prison at the end of 2007. [AP, 5/21/07; Brisbane Times, 5/21/07; JURIST, 5/22/07; for more info: Text of David Hicks plea agreement, 3/26/07]

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