Release Of Photos Of Detainee Abuse Critical To Accountability, Says ACLU
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NEW YORK – The Supreme Court should deny the government's request for a review of a lower court's decision ordering the government to release photos depicting widespread abuse of detainees overseas, according to a formal opposition filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union. In April, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals had directed the government to turn over the photos in an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, and the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to review and reverse that decision.
"These photos may be profoundly disturbing, but they are a crucial part of the historical record and the appeals court was right to find that they should be released," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "It's disappointing that the Obama administration, which in other contexts has recognized the close connection between transparency and accountability, is continuing to argue that the photos should be suppressed."
The ACLU's opposition is supported by two friend-of–the-court briefs – one filed by Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Amnesty International and another filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 16 media organizations.
The government is challenging the release of photos of abuse by U.S. personnel at detention facilities throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. The Justice Department initially agreed to release the photos shortly after the change of administrations, but the Obama administration has since changed its position, claiming the photos should not be released.
"The government should not be allowed to suppress evidence of human rights abuses based on speculative concerns over its potential use as propaganda," said Alex Abdo, a Legal Fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. "Releasing these photographs will ultimately help ensure that such abuses are never again repeated."
The attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Steven R. Shapiro, Amrit Singh, Judy Rabinovitz and Lucas Guttentag of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jennifer B. Condon of Gibbons, P.C.
The opposition brief filed today can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/40939lgl20090908.html
The amicus brief filed by Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Amnesty International can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/40938lgl20090908.html
The amicus brief filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/40951lgl20090908.html
More information about the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit, which has resulted in the release of more than 100,000 government documents to date, can be found online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia