(New York, March 15, 2007) – The United States should release Khalid Sheikh Muhammad’s statement describing his alleged torture in CIA custody, Human Rights Watch said today. The statement, submitted as Exhibit D-d during Muhammad’s hearing before a military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Saturday, was withheld from public disclosure.
Muhammad and several other suspects were held in secret CIA detention for several years prior to September 2006, when President Bush ordered their transfer to Guantanamo. Unnamed intelligence sources have repeatedly told journalists that these suspects were tortured while in CIA custody. The redacted exhibit clearly contains allegations about torture. In describing the document, the tribunal president states: “... to use your word, you claim torture.”
“It is a glaring misuse of the classification power for the government to classify information simply because it might be embarrassing or unlawful,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Muhammad’s claims of torture should be investigated rather than concealed.”
Under US law, information can be classified to protect national security interests, but it is improper to classify information in order to hide facts that might be embarrassing or unlawful.
Human Rights Watch is especially concerned that, while subject to abuse, Muhammad may have falsely implicated other detainees in criminal activity. During his hearing before the military tribunal, he suggested that he made false statements about knowing people whom he did not in fact know.
In sections of the hearing transcript that were redacted, Muhammad may have mentioned the names of some of these people. Human Rights Watch called on the government to release an unredacted version of the transcript, as well as to release the names of any detainees held as the result of statements made by Muhammad.
Also of concern is Muhammad’s claim that his children were held by US authorities for four months and mistreated. Journalist Ron Suskind has previously reported that two of Muhammad’s children – a boy and a girl, ages 7 and 9, respectively – were in US custody.
Human Rights Watch said that Muhammad and others implicated in the September 11, 2001 attacks should be transferred to federal custody for prosecution in US federal court and be treated as criminal defendants, not enemy combatants.
Muhammad claimed that his actions were no different from other revolutionaries, asserting that if British forces had arrested George Washington during the Revolutionary War, “for sure they would consider him enemy combatant.”
“The United States should stop calling terrorist suspects ‘enemy combatants,’” said Roth. “The use of martial terminology abets their efforts to glorify what are the most cowardly of criminal acts.”