Tuesday, August 09, 2005

U.S.: Cruel Confinement of 'Enemy Combatant' in United States

U.S.: Cruel Confinement of 'Enemy Combatant' in United States
Complaint Provides First Look at Isolation and Abuse

(New York, August 8, 2005)?A lawsuit filed today against U.S.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reveals the gratuitous
cruelty inflicted on a foreign student held without charges for more
than two years as an "enemy combatant" in a South Carolina naval
brig, Human Rights Watch said. Although three men have been
confined in the United States after being designated "enemy
combatants" by President George Bush, the complaint by Ali Saleh
Kahlah al-Marri provides the first look into the treatment of any of
them in military custody.

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who had been
studying in Peoria, Illinois, before his arrest, asked the federal
district court in South Carolina to declare unconstitutional the
severe and unnecessary deprivations and restrictions to which he
has been subjected since he was placed in military custody in June
2003. Al-Marri had already initiated habeas proceedings
challenging the legality of his detention as an enemy combatant.
That case continues.

"It is bad enough that al-Marri has been held indefinitely without
charges and incommunicado," said Jamie Fellner, director of
Human Rights Watch's U.S. Program. "Now we learn that his life
in the brig has also been one of cruelty and petty vindictiveness.
Whatever the Bush administration believes he has done or wanted
to do, there's no excuse for how they are treating him."

Al-Marri's complaint describes virtually complete isolation from
the world. He has been confined round the clock in a small cell
with an opaque window covered with plastic. He has not been
allowed to speak to his wife or five children. He is allowed no
newspapers, magazines, books (other than the Koran), radio or
television. He is allowed no personal property. His cell contains a
steel bed, a sink and a toilet. During the day, the mattress on his
bed has been removed.

Out-of-cell time has been limited to three showers and three short
periods of solitary recreation a week?but al-Marri has frequently
been denied that out-of-cell time. Once he went 60 days without
being permitted to leave his cell at all. When bad weather prevents
him from going outside, he must remain in hand cuffs and leg irons
during his indoor recreation. Leg irons and handcuffs are placed on
him when he goes to the shower.

Al-Marri alleges that on occasion he has been denied basic hygiene
products such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and toilet paper.
When not provided with toilet paper, he has had to use his hands to
clean himself after he defecates, and it has taken more than an hour
before soap was brought to him so that he could wash his hands.
The water in his cell has frequently been turned off. He has been
denied socks or footwear for months at a time, including during the
winter months. Officers at the brig often lower the temperature in
his cell until it becomes exceedingly cold, but they do not give him
extra clothes or blankets to keep warm.

According to al-Marri's complaint, he has not been formally
interrogated for almost one year. He states, however, that when he
was interrogated, government officials threatened he would be sent
to Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where they told him he would be
tortured and sodomized and his wife would be raped in front of
him.

For more than a year, al-Marri was not allowed to speak with any
non-governmental personnel other than representatives of the
International Committee of the Red Cross. Military personnel
guarding him would not talk to him other than to give him orders.
In October 2004, the government finally agreed to let him have
access to counsel.

Al-Marri is a devout Muslim. According to his complaint, military
officials have not permitted him to meet with a Muslim cleric, do
not let him have a prayer mat and punish him if he follows his
religion's requirement to cover his head while he prays (he uses a
shirt for this purpose). They do not tell him which way Mecca lies,
so he does not know in which direction to pray; nor do they
provide him with a clock, so he does not know when to pray.

"It's the combination of restrictions imposed on al-Marri that
offends basic norms of decency," said Fellner. "There is no
security justification for them. The Pentagon apparently believes it
can hold him under any conditions they choose for as long as they
choose."

Al-Marri also claims he has been denied appropriate care for
medical and mental health symptoms he has developed while in the
brig. Prolonged solitary confinement pushes the boundary of what
humans can psychologically tolerate. It can cause serious mental
damage.

Al-Marri is a citizen of Qatar who lawfully resided in the United
States, having come with his wife and children to obtain a graduate
degree at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, the same university
from which he had earned a bachelor's degree 10 years earlier. The
Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested al-Marri at his home in
December 2001 as a material witness in the investigation of the
September 11 attacks, and he was subsequently indicted on federal
charges of credit card fraud and lying to the FBI.

In 2003, President Bush designated al-Marri an enemy combatant,
and shortly before his criminal trial was to begin, the criminal
charges against him were dismissed, and he was sent to the
Consolidated Naval Brig in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Lawyers for al-Marri immediately challenged the President's
actions in federal district court in Illinois, where his criminal case
had been pending, but the courts ultimately held that this challenge
had to be brought in the district where al-Marri was presently
confined. On July 7, 2004, counsel for al-Marri filed a writ of
habeas corpus in federal district court in South Carolina,
challenging the lawfulness of his detention. On July 8, 2005, the
court ruled that President Bush has the authority to detain non-
citizens who had been residing in the United States as enemy
combatants.

Human Rights Watch condemns the designation by presidential
order of any civilian as an "enemy combatant" when the individual
was detained far from any battlefield. Holding someone in military
custody without charges because of such a designation constitutes
a violation of the prohibition against arbitrary detention under
international law. By treating al-Marri as an "enemy combatant,"
the Bush administration made an end-run around the due process
and other constitutional guarantees of the U.S. criminal justice
system.

Human Rights Watch disputes the government's contention that
the laws of war permit holding al-Marri indefinitely and without
charges. Those laws are not applicable outside areas of armed
conflict and where there is no direct connection to an armed
conflict. In the case of a civilian detained within the United
States?whether or not affiliated with any terrorist organization?
international human rights and constitutional law require that he be
formally charged and given a fair trial before a civilian court.

Al-Marri is one of three men whom President Bush has designated
as enemy combatants in the U.S. campaign against terrorism and
who have been confined within the territorial United States.
Lawyers for all three went to court challenging the lawfulness of
their detentions. The government in each case insisted the
president has the authority to decide unilaterally who is an enemy
combatant and that anyone so designated is not entitled to a
judicial hearing.
The first case was that of Yassir Hamdi, a U.S. citizen turned over
to U.S. forces during the fighting in Afghanistan. In June 2004, the
Supreme Court ruled that he was entitled to his day in court; the
United States chose not to proceed with a hearing and allowed
Hamdi to go to Saudi Arabia, where he also held citizenship.

The second designated enemy combatant was Jose Padilla, a U.S.
citizen detained at Chicago's O'Hare Airport upon his return from
the Middle East. According to the Bush Administration, Padilla
had plotted with Al-Qaeda to commit terrorist acts in the United
States. In June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled he had to bring his
case before the federal district court in South Carolina, where he is
being confined in the same navy brig as al-Marri. On February 28,
2005, the federal district court in South Carolina ruled that
President Bush had "no power, neither express nor implied, neither
constitutional nor statutory" to hold Padilla as an enemy
combatant.

To view this document on the Human Rights Watch web site,
please visit: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/08/08/usdom11612.htm

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