Civil Liberties

Secretly Tortured

Guantanamo Bay ruling


Twelve years after 9/11, pre-trial hearings began at Guantanamo Bay for five defendants accused of playing a role in the attacks. The defendants, who include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, could face the death penalty if convicted of taking part in that bloody day.

Justice delayed has already cast a shadow over the proceedings. But a military judge's order forbidding defendants from discussing their torture at the hands of the CIA before they were charged may effectively compromise the trials no matter the outcome.

A confidential but subsequently leaked International Committee of the Red Cross report, written in 2007, found that 14 "high-value" prisoners had been mistreated by the CIA while in its custody. The report said the detainees' experiences "amounted to participation in torture and/or cruel inhuman or degrading treatment." The Red Cross list of torture victims overlaps with the current list of defendants.

None of this is secret. But the court is apparently loath to have the CIA's conduct taint long-awaited proceedings against defendants charged with responsibility for a high-profile act of terrorism.

Human rights groups say U.S. officials are so committed to suppressing details of detainees' mistreatment that they've continued holding one man, Shaker Aamer, who is charged with no crime and has been cleared twice since 2007 for release and return to Britain. Aamer was recently refused delivery of a copy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago brought to him by his attorney.