FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK - In response to newly released images of abuse at Abu Ghraib, the American Civil Liberties Union today renewed its call for an independent investigation into widespread and systemic abuse in U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.
"We continue to see undeniable evidence that abuse and torture has been widespread and systematic, yet high level government officials have not been held accountable for creating the policies that led to these atrocities," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "We need to look up the chain of military command, because when the rule of law is not followed all of our personal freedoms are threatened. President Bush should appoint an independent counsel to uncover the full truth about the extent of the abuse and who is ultimately responsible."
The ACLU has sued the Department of Defense for withholding photographs and videos depicting abuse at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities. In September, a federal judge in New York ruled that the government must turn over the Abu Ghraib images, as well as other visual evidence of abuse, noting "the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed." The decision is currently on appeal by the government. The ACLU said it does not know whether the new photos aired by the Australian "Dateline" program are the same photos being withheld by the government.
"The public has a right to know the full truth about the treatment of detainees not just in Abu Ghraib but elsewhere in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay," said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh. "Instead of continuing to deny the widespread abuse, the government must hold relevant officials accountable for this abuse."
The ACLU has been in the courts since 2003 seeking the release of evidence of abuse. To date, almost 90,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The documents have revealed that harsh interrogation techniques were used indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, and ultimately led to cases of abuse and torture.
The ACLU's lawsuit on the release of photos is now before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. The Defense Department has agreed to finish processing all remaining documents relating to detainee abuse, including images depicting abuse at facilities other than Abu Ghraib, by June 15.
In a separate lawsuit the ACLU has sued Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking military commanders to hold them accountable for the torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The FOIA lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. In addition to Singh, attorneys in the case are Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C.; Jameel Jaffer and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur N. Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
For more on the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit, go to www.aclu.org/torturefoia
For more on the ACLU's lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld, go to www.aclu.org/rumsfeld