ACLU Argues For Expedited Release of Government Documents on Torture of Detainees

August 12, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK -The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union urged a federal court today to order the government to release records relating to the treatment of prisoners held by the United States at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities overseas.

“The government’s insistence that these records must be suppressed is deeply troubling,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU Staff Attorney. “The public has a right to know whether senior government officials endorsed practices that violate domestic and international law, as seems to have been the case.”

At issue in today’s hearing was a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and its allies after the Defense Department and other federal agencies failed to release records in response to Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests filed in October 2003 and May 2004. The requests sought records concerning the interrogation and treatment of detainees and the extrajudicial “rendition” of detainees to countries known to use torture.

In a motion for preliminary injunctive relief filed on August 6th with the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York, the ACLU asked the court to order federal agencies to expedite the release of the requested records. The government has argued that it should not be required to release records on an expedited schedule and that many of the records should not be released at all.

“The government seems intent on preventing the public from learning what policies led to the kinds of abuses we saw at Abu Ghraib,” said Amrit Singh, a Staff Attorney in the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “But the public has a right to know what those policies were, and who put them in place.”

The government agencies named as defendants in the case are: the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. Legal documents in the case, including the ACLU’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, are online at www.aclu.org/torturefoia

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein will hear oral arguments from attorneys representing the ACLU and the government.

The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Jennifer Ching of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Jameel Jaffer, Judy Rabinovitz, and Amrit Singh of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Steven Watt, Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of CCR.

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