National Press Club

Human Rights Advocates Call for Guantanamo Accountability

October 22, 2009 | By Mike Smith | bhgmike@aol.com

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Human rights advocates, lawyers and Common Cause said the United States violated Geneva Conventions in treatment and interrogation of detainees in Iraq and at a military detention facility in Cuba and that former Vice President Richard Cheney should answer for the abuses at an Oct. 16 Newsmaker.

Emmet Bondurant, the attorney representing Mohammed Al Ansi, Scott Horton, Columbia Law School lecturer, Ellen Massimino, CEO and executive director of Human Rights First, and former Rep. Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, explored prisoner abuse, military commissions trying detainees, and who is responsible for aggressive interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Common Cause presented a commendation letter to whistleblowers, signed by former President Jimmy Carter. Three Brigadier Generals and former Rep. Lee Hamilton also signed the letter acknowledging generals and Army colonels who protested detainee torture. In particular, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, one of the honorees, was to receive the letter. He resigned as prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions after learning that detainee Mohammed Jawad had been subjected to continual abuse at Bagram AFB and later at Guantanamo. Col. Vandeveld also discovered that evidence supporting Jawad’s case had been suppressed by the Army.

The Newsmaker panel explore language recently inserted in a defense authorization bill that would exempt Freedom of Information Act mandates and continue to suppress release of long-concealed photographs of detainee abuse. They also assessed the assignment of John H. Durham as federal prosecutor under Attorney General Eric Holder and whether full disclosure will become public. Holder has bucked the earlier Obama administration position that prosecution of administration officials would become an issue of national security. Seven former CIA Directors petitioned President Obama to stop or curtail Holder’s investigation on these grounds.