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May 15, 2005

Latest Hamdan Ruling Means Further Delay for Guantanamo Detainees

More on Ending Torture

Human Rights First expressed disappointment in the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to green-light the military commission prosecution of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. The Court's ruling overturned a stay on the military commission proceedings that had been entered by a lower federal court last year; the lower court found the commissions violated core due process guarantees under U.S. and international law.

Human Rights First and health care professionals who work with torture victims had filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Appeals Court to resolve the case as quickly as possible given the deteriorating health of Mr. Hamdan and other detainees as a result of their prolonged and uncertain detention. To read the brief go to: /wp-content/uploads/pdf/04-5393-HRF-Phys-010405.pdf

"By sending the case back for trial by the military commission, many months' and perhaps years' more delay and uncertainty will stand between Mr. Hamdan and a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court," said Deborah Pearlstein, director of Human Rights First's U.S. Law & Security Program. "There is good reason to be concerned about the deleterious impact that this sort of prolonged detention could have on the health of a man's who has not yet been found guilty by a court."

The amicus brief Human Rights First filed late last year argued that the uncertainty of an indefinite fate produces a mental anguish that can be devastating. As Pentagon and press reports on the conditions of confinement at Guantanamo Bay have made clear, Guantanamo detainees have been subject to sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement, temperature and noise extremes, sleep deprivation, and use of prolonged painful stress positions. Information gleaned from detainees held under these circumstances is inherently unreliable, yet military commission proceedings as currently designed appear set to draw heavily from defendant and other detainee statements obtained by such methods.