USA: Architects of CIA torture program to testify at Guantanamo for first time
• Amnesty International expert attending hearing and available for interviews
The two psychologists responsible for designing and implementing the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” will testify in pre-trial hearings in the September 11 case at Guantánamo Bay next week. Amnesty International experts will be there to observe their testimony.
The contract psychologists, James E. Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, are responsible for developing interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, confinement in small boxes, beatings, and sleep deprivation, which amounted to torture. Many detainees suffered such abuse in secret sites around the globe, including in Europe, with the complicity of a number of European governments. Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s leading expert on counter-terrorism, who will be attending the hearings, said:
“The perverse ‘work’ of these psychologists has dramatically set back the global fight against torture. The interrogation methods they championed have had a rippling effect around the world.
“Rather than being held to account, the people responsible for the US torture program – including Mitchell and Jessen – have been protected and, in some cases, promoted. The fact that they are testifying at this high-profile hearing shows the CIA’s failure to root out the human rights abuses at the heart of its counter-terror program. Such impunity is a stain on US history. Torture is never justified and anyone who uses it must be held to account.”
Briefing during pre-trial hearings at Guantánamo Bay naval base
Julia Hall is a human rights lawyer and Amnesty International’s expert on criminal justice, counter-terrorism and human rights
Zeke Johnson is senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA. He leads a team of issue experts working to end urgent human rights abuses in the U.S.
18 January – 1 February
For further information, or to schedule an interview with Julia Hall or Zeke Johnson, contact Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada, 613-744-7667 ext. 236, email@example.com
Mitchell and Jessen are expected to testify beginning on January 20 in the pre-trial hearings against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men charged with helping to plan and assist in the 9/11 attacks.
Amnesty International is one of the few NGOs that have priority for The Gallery, where hearings that are not classified can be observed.
Julia Hall was one of the first persons to be granted permission by the United States Department of Defense to monitor military commissions proceedings. She observed the first trial at Guantánamo in 2008 in the case of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver. She is an expert on European complicity in CIA secret sites, including those in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, and has been personally involved in the resettlement of three former detainees (to Ireland and Sweden).
Zeke Johnson has represented the organization before the United Nations Committee Against Torture and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; testified before members of Congress about U.S. drone strikes; and served as a trial monitor of the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay.
Amnesty International has long advocated that government officials who were involved in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in the course of the U.S.’s global “war on terror” be held accountable, and that detainees at Guantánamo should either be released or tried promptly in U.S. federal court.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the U.S. government to close the detention facility and put an end to years of human rights violations.
Amnesty has called attention to the fact that the government’s program of torture and ill-treatment – and repeated delays of fair trial of alleged suspects of the September 11 attacks – have directly contributed to the absence of real justice and remedy for the victims of September 11 and their family members.
Whether torture-tainted statements should be excluded from evidence in the September 11 trial is the question at the core of the hearings at Guantánamo Bay this January. All five co-defendants could face the death penalty if found guilty by the military commissions, whose proceedings do not meet international fair trial standards. The use of this punishment in these cases would be the ultimate denial of basic human rights.