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Updated 03/16/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—March 15, 2007

1. Former secret CIA prisoners face hearings at Guantánamo Bay
2. Guantánamo Bay prisoners appeal cases to Supreme Court
3. 45 members of Congress sponsor bill outlawing rendition
4. Audit of FBI reveals abuses of Patriot Act
5. Soldier testifies against former squad leader in court martial for Iraq murders
6. Federal court dismisses suit involving CIA torture

1. Former secret CIA prisoners face hearings at Guantánamo Bay
The Pentagon announced on March 12 that three alleged plotters of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks recently underwent combatant status review hearings at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Such hearings are to determine if individuals should be classified as “enemy combatants,” meaning they can be held indefinitely and are subject to a military tribunal. The three men, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu-Faraz al-Libby, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, are among 14 men transferred from secret CIA prisons to Guantánamo Bay in September 2006. According to an edited transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s hearing released by the Pentagon, he claims he was the main organizer of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, and he planned a number of attacks on prominent sites in the United Kingdom. Mohammed alleged that he was tortured after he was captured by the CIA in his native Pakistan in 2003. [CNN, 3/12/07; Department of Defense, 3/14/07; Reuters, 3/15/07; Independent (UK), 3/15/07; more info: Mohammed hearing transcript]

2. Guantánamo Bay prisoners appeal cases to Supreme Court
Attorneys for six Algerians held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba filed an appeal on March 5 with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to overturn the February decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that Guantánamo detainees do not have the right to appeal their detention in U.S. courts. The lawyers argue that Congress violated the Constitution by stripping the habeas corpus rights of “enemy combatants” in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The Supreme Court is expected to decide on March 30 if it will hear the case and, if accepted, a hearing will occur on May 7, with a decision by the end of June. [Reuters, 3/5/07; past story: HRWT news update, 3/2/07]

3. 45 members of Congress sponsor bill outlawing rendition
U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., along with 44 co-sponsors, on March 6 introduced a bill to outlaw the practice of extraordinary rendition. The Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act would prohibit the transfer of detainees held by the U.S. government or contractors to countries known to practice torture and disallow “diplomatic assurances” as confirmation that an individual will not be tortured. However, the bill does grant the secretary of state the ability to waive the ban on an individual basis if the secretary demonstrates to Congress that appropriate measures are in place to ensure a prisoner will not be tortured and that the country where he or she is being sent no longer practices torture. Human Rights Watch encouraged Congress to pass the bill as soon as possible. [Markey press release, 3/6/07; HRW press release, 3/6/07]

4. Audit of FBI reveals abuses of Patriot Act
According to a audit report released in early March by the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Office, the FBI engaged in abuses of Patriot Act powers in its use of National Security Letters to collect personal information on U.S. residents. The letters require business and financial institutions, as well as telephone companies, to provide personal information on individuals without judicial oversight when the information is part of a terrorism investigation. Furthermore, recipients of such letters are barred from informing anyone that they have been received. The Inspector General’s report states that in reports to Congress, the FBI understated the number of letters issued by as much as 20 percent. Additionally, the FBI had an agreement with unidentified telephone companies allowing the FBI to retrieve information on over 3,000 phone numbers without providing a subpoena or, in some cases, not in the context of any investigation. The FBI subsequently issued letters retroactively authorizing the information collections. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing the government over the use of National Security Letters. [AP, 3/9/07; JURIST, 3/9/07; ACLU Press Release, 3/9/07; WP, 3/10/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 9/11/07; more info: Sample National Security Letter]

5. Soldier testifies against former squad leader in court martial for Iraq murders
On March 13 Army Spc. William Hunsaker testified against his former squad leader in the court martial of Staff Sgt. Ray Giouard. Giouard is accused of ordering Hunsaker and another soldier, Pfc. Corey Clagett, to kill three Iraqi detainees after a raid on an alleged insurgent camp near Samarra. Anita Gorecki, Giouard’s attorney, claimed in her opening statement that her client did not order the killings, but only helped cover them up after discovering the victims had been shot. Hunsaker and Clagett both pled guilty to premeditated murder, while Spc. Justin Graber pled guilty to aggravated assault, as he shot one of the detainees after he had been wounded. [AP, 3/13/07; JURIST, 3/14/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 2/2/07] 

6. Federal court dismisses suit involving CIA torture
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 2 rejected German citizen Khaled el-Masri’s attempt to reinstate his lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet for his 2003 kidnapping. El-Masri claims he was kidnapped by Macedonian authorities and taken to Afghanistan by CIA agents, during which time he was physically and psychologically abused, and released without charge after five months. The Court of Appeals agreed with the May 2006 ruling of a federal judge that allowing the case to proceed would expose “state secrets.” [CBS, 3/2/07; UPI, 3/6/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 12/1/06]

 

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