The prominent Boston law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr has filed a historic suit in federal district court on behalf of six Algerian detainees who were captured in Bosnia and are still held at the facility in Guantánamo. The firm filed suit, reports the Boston Globe, after all of its FOIA requests for medical requests were denied.
The complaint will ask a judge to order the military to hand over documents about its treatment of six Guantanamo detainees arrested in Bosnia, including medical and psychiatric records. It is the first Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in connection with detention challenges, marking a new tactic in piercing the veil of secrecy that surrounds ”enemy combatants” at the prison.
Update [2005-4-14 8:29:13 by susanhbu]: WaPo says the suit demands tapes of beatings …
Update [2005-4-14 8:29:13 by susanhbu]: From today’s Washington Post:
The military videotaped the work of teams of prison guards responsible for quelling disturbances by detainees and created written summaries of the material on the tapes. More than two dozen detainees have alleged in declassified accounts given to their attorneys that the teams’ real purpose was to force them to confess or cooperate with interrogators.
The “severe abuse at the hands of Guantanamo guards,” reports the The NewStandard, included:
The New York Times says that the lawsuit, “filed on behalf of Mustafa Ait Idir, an Algerian, is based on accounts that he gave his American lawyer on a recent visit to Guantánamo, in Cuba”:
The lawyer’s accounts form the basis of a federal suit in Boston that asks the Defense Department to release medical records that might corroborate Mr. Idir’s account.
This morning’s Boston Globe offers further details on the abuse:
Another time, the complaint said, guards harassed prisoners on religious grounds by forcing them to give up their pants so they could not pray according to Muslim custom, which requires that worshipers be fully covered. Idir refused to disrobe and struggled with guards, who tear-gassed him. Eventually he was put in handcuffs, after which a guard bent his finger until it broke.
On a third occasion, the complaint said, guards twisted his right hand while he was handcuffed, dislocating the middle finger and thumb. They also pinned him down on gravel and jumped on his head, causing stones to cut the right side of his face and leaving a scar near his eye.
”This incident precipitated an apparent stroke,” the complaint alleged. ”He experiences head pain, and the left side of his face was paralyzed for months. Only one of his eyes blinked . . . He could not eat normally, food and drink leaked from his non-functioning mouth.”
CAPTION, PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT: “Bosnian Mustafa Ait Idir, shown in an undated photograph provided by his attorneys, was handed over to United States troops in Bosnia in 2002 after being ordered released by Bosnia’s highest court, according to Ait Idir’s lawyers April 13, 2005. Lawyers for Ait Idir and five other Bosnian detainees being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba filed a new federal lawsuit April 13, 2005 in Boston against the United States government accusing the Departments of Defense and Justice of refusing to release information on severe torture at Guantanamo Bay.” (Yahoo/Reuters)
”We’ve been asking for this information since September,” said attorney Stephen Oleskey, a former Massachusetts deputy attorney general in an interview with the Boston Globe.
How the Boston attorneys got involved, and details on the charges against the Algerians:
Bosnian courts dismissed the charges. The United States then transferred them to Guantanamo. Got it.
As the Al-Jazeera story points out, “The cases of the six Algerian detainees have attracted attention because they were captured far from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where most Guantanamo detainees were arrested.” This is perhaps another instance of rendition, not unlike the case of the sheik nabbed off the streets of Milan, Italy and “rendered” to Egypt for interrogation and torture. It’s not clear from the news stories if the Algerians were voluntarily turned over to U.S. authorities.
One of the attorneys for Ait Idir further says:
”Even if you assume that [Idir’s karate expertise] would justify [guards] being cautious, in the two instances in which his fingers were broken and dislocated, by the time that happened he was entirely subdued and his hands were manacled,” the lawyer said.
Oleskey said his clients had been working for Middle East-based charities in Bosnia for at least six years at the time of their arrest. All are married and have children. Their ages range from late 30s to early 40s.
Idir’s case was mentioned in the now-famous ruling by US District Judge Joyce Hens Green in January 2005, “who ruled that the military had failed to give detainees a proper chance to challenge their imprisonment.”
”I was hoping you had evidence you could give me,” Idir said. ”If I was in your place — and I apologize in advance for these words — but if a supervisor came to me and showed me accusations like these, I would take these accusations and I would hit him in the face with them. Sorry about that.”
Everyone in the room laughed. Green was less amused: ”The laughter reflected in the transcript is understandable, and this exchange might have been truly humorous had the consequences of the detainee’s ‘enemy combatant’ status not been so terribly serious and had the detainee’s criticism not been so piercingly accurate,” she wrote.
Perhaps Tom DeLay, in comparing the 1994 “Contract with America” to the Magna Carta — and his cohorts Alberto Gonzales, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice — might recall that one of the most historic, most critical provisions of the Magna Carta was the concept of habeas corpus.