ACLU Challenges Destruction of Evidence in Indefinite Detention Case


October 17, 2008, Charleston, SC – The American Civil Liberties Union today appealed a court decision allowing the government to destroy and obstruct evidence depicting the brutal interrogations of Ali al-Marri, who has been detained in solitary confinement at a Navy brig in South Carolina since June 2003. Just last week, newly released military documents obtained by the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic showed that the Navy applied lawless Guantánamo protocols in detention facilities on American soil, including the brig where al-Marri is held.

“The government has admitted to destroying evidence depicting the brutal interrogations of Mr. al-Marri while he was held incommunicado at the Navy brig. The court was absolutely wrong to let the government off the hook for this inexcusable conduct,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “We are hopeful the district court will reverse this decision and protect the integrity of the proceedings in this case. Especially in light of what we now know about the Gitmo-ization of American detention facilities, we should have a full accounting of what happened.”

After several newspapers reported that the government had destroyed evidence in al-Marri’s case, including recordings depicting his abusive interrogation, al-Marri immediately sought a court order requiring the government to preserve all remaining evidence and investigate the past destruction of evidence. A court denied this request earlier this month. Today, the ACLU is appealing that decision.

According to documents released last week, the standard operating procedure developed for Guantánamo Bay governed every aspect of detentions at the brig where al-Marri is held in the United States. Al-Marri has reported being subjected to many of the brutal interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo Bay, including sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, prolonged isolation, extreme sensory deprivation and threats of violence and death.

Last month, in a separate lawsuit, the ACLU urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Bush administration’s authority to indefinitely imprison al-Marri without charge or trial. The ACLU asked the Court to reverse a federal appeals court decision that gave the president sweeping power to deprive individuals in the United States, including American citizens, of their most basic constitutional rights. The ACLU’s request for Supreme Court review of the case is still pending.

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