On July 22, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) denounced the latest efforts of the Bush Administration to block the release of the Darby photos and videos depicting torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison facility. On June 2, 2004, CCR, along with the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace filed papers with the U.S. District Court, charging the Department of Defense and other government agencies with illegally withholding records concerning the abuse of detainees in American military custody. Since then, the organizations have been repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to investigate what happened at the prison.
In June, the government requested and received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact the faces of the men, women and children believed to be shown in the photographs and videos. They were given until today to produce the images, but at the eleventh hour filed a motion to oppose the release of the photos and videos, based on an entirely new argument: they are now requesting a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals. Today’s move is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world.
Joseph Darby was the U.S reservist who turned over the photos and videos to U.S. Army officials and touched off the Abu Ghraib scandal in April 2004.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” stated Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We can not move forward from this scandal until we have a full public accounting and independent investigation into what happened at Abu Ghraib. The government cannot continue to hide evidence of torture. The time to release these photos and videos was a long time ago.”
Expectations are that the FOIA request will release more than 100 photos and 4 videos, all believed to document deplorable human rights violations by U.S. military personnel against Iraqi civilians.
Barbara Olshansky, Deputy Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “The public must be informed of what is being done in our name. It is this Administration that has put our troops at risk and caused world-wide anger by fostering policies that promote torture and refusing to hold those responsible publicly accountable.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights once more calls for a complete, transparent independent investigation into the torture and abuse of detainees that goes all the way up the chain of command and demands that the Administration apply the Geneva Conventions to every detainee being held in U.S. custody around the world.
This is part of the request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The FOIA lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C.