Leading Rights Groups Call On Obama To Release Prisoner Abuse Photos

ACLU Calls On Court To Adhere To Mandate Requiring Release Of Abuse Photos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU, June 1, 2009

NEW YORK – Several of the nation’s leading human rights and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to President Obama today urging him to release photos depicting the abuse of detainees by U.S. personnel overseas.

The letter, signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and dozens of other groups, calls on the president to reconsider his decision to block the release of the photos. It states, “The hallmark of an open society is that we do not conceal information that reflects poorly on us – we expose it to the light of day, so that wrongdoers can be held accountable and future abuses prevented.”

“The disclosure of these photographs serves as a further reminder that abuse of prisoners in U.S.-administered detention centers was systemic,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “Some of the abuse occurred because senior civilian and military officials created a culture of impunity in which abuse was tolerated, and some of the abuse was expressly authorized. It’s imperative that senior officials who condoned or authorized abuse now be held accountable for their actions.”

Also today, the ACLU asked a federal appeals court to uphold its earlier ruling that the government must release the photos. On May 28, the government filed a motion asking the court to recall its mandate ordering their release, and today the ACLU filed its opposition to that motion.

“The public has an undeniable right to see these photos. As disturbing as they may be, it is critical that the American people know the full truth about the abuse that occurred in their name. The government’s decision to suppress the photos is fundamentally inconsistent with President Obama’s own promise of transparency and accountability,” said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. “The government has failed to show any good cause for the court to recall its mandate that the photos be released, and we are confident the court will uphold its original order.”

In September 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the government to turn over the photos in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The Obama administration originally indicated that it would not appeal that decision and would release the photos, but abruptly reversed its commitment to do so shortly before the agreed-upon deadline.

In addition to Jaffer and Singh, attorneys on the case are Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jenny Brooke Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

More information about the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit, including today’s filing, is online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia

The full text of the letter to President Obama is below and available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/39709res20090601.html

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