ACLU Calls on Gates to Investigate Sensory Deprivation Techniques Used Against Prisoners in U.S. Custody
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACLU Denounces Padilla’s Cruel and Inhuman Treatment in U.S. Military Detention
NEW YORK – As Robert Gates was sworn in today, the American Civil Liberties Union called on the new Secretary of Defense to launch an investigation into cruel and inhuman methods used on prisoners in U.S. custody. Among the methods being denounced by the ACLU are sensory deprivation techniques recently shown to be used on Jose Padilla, including blacked-out goggles and headphones that block sound.
“It is shameful that devices designed to cause sensory deprivation are used on prisoners in the United States,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “There should also be an investigation into the serious allegations of abuse that are as disturbing as what occurred at Abu Ghraib.”
The sensory deprivation techniques were shown in photographs of Padilla published earlier this month by The New York Times. Last week, the Washington Post reported that a previously undisclosed Navy inspector general report from 2004 confirmed the use of such techniques against Padilla and two other so-called “enemy combatants” held on a Navy brig in South Carolina.
In a letter sent today to Secretary Gates, the ACLU described the treatment Padilla’s attorneys detailed in legal papers filed in October. His attorneys stated that Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of LSD and PCP intended to act a truth serum. Additionally, he was subjected to extreme isolation with no natural light, sleep deprivation, and had little opportunity for human contact. Such conditions, when compounded by sensory deprivation devices, may constitute torture, said the ACLU.
According to today’s letter, the mistreatment “seems designed to undermine Mr. Padilla’s sanity, primarily by imposing a regime of sensory deprivation. The prolonged isolation to which Mr. Padilla was subjected has severe mental health consequences and constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“The treatment that Jose Padilla endured clearly violates United States and international law, as well as basic standards of morality,” said Jamil Dakwar, a staff attorney for the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The conditions under which he has been incarcerated clearly meet the definition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and must be changed, not just for Padilla, but for all who are held.”
The ACLU called on Secretary Gates to unequivocally condemn the use of torture and abuse, particularly the use of sensory deprivation techniques and extreme isolation. The ACLU further urged Secretary Gates to take the following actions to prevent future abuses and hold the responsible parties accountable:
- Order the public release of the Navy’s inspector general report;
- Hold officials accountable for the approval and execution of any inhuman and degrading or torturous tactics used on Padilla and other detainees;
- Investigate whether abusive tactics are being used on other detainees or prisoners in the custody of the Department of Defense; and
- Ensure that military training include clear instructions with regard to the prohibition against torture and other abusive techniques.
Padilla is a 36-year-old U.S. citizen who was arrested at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in May 2002 under the suspicion of plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States. In June 2002, he was declared an “enemy combatant” by President Bush and was held in complete isolation at the South Carolina Navy brig where he was denied access to counsel for 21 months. On November 22, 2005, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on whether the president was authorized to detain a U.S. citizen without trial as an “enemy combatant,” Padilla was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he conspired to “murder, kidnap and maim” people overseas. Notably, the indictment did not mention any of the allegations that were used by the government in designating Padilla as an “enemy combatant.” He was transferred from military to civilian custody in January 2006.
Padilla’s lawyers will argue today in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida to dismiss the indictment against Padilla based on “outrageous government conduct.”
Padilla is one of three individuals who have been detained as “enemy combatants” inside the United States since September 11, 2001. In addition to Padilla, Ali Saleh Kahleh al-Marri, a Qatari national, was designated an enemy combatant by President Bush in June 2003. He continues to be held without charge at the South Carolina Navy brig. The third person is Yasir Hamdi, a U.S. and Saudi citizen who was released and returned to Saudi Arabia in 2004.
Today’s letter was signed by Alexander, ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson and Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
The letter is online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/27711lgl20061218.html
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.