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“A Deep Sense of Depression and Hopelessness”–Guantanamo Attorney on State of Imprisoned Clients

StoryJanuary 11, 2007
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We speak with Gita Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who has traveled to Guantanmo many times to represent detainees there. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined in Washington, D.C., by an attorney who has been to Guantanamo many times. Gita Gutierrez is with us, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. She has gone to Guantanamo to represent prisoners there. CCR and Amnesty International are holding a news conference today on the steps of the Supreme Court to call for the closing of Guantanamo. Gita Gutierrez, as you hear these voices today in Cuba, as you hear the voices of those who have returned from Guantanamo, can you talk about the situation of the men who are currently there? How many men are at Guantanamo now, men and boys?

GITA GUTIERREZ: Amy, there’s approximately 400, almost 400 men and boys who are still imprisoned at Guantanamo, and the stories that you’ve heard described of the depression and the grim circumstances there continue. Most of the men are suffering from a deep sense of depression and hopelessness. And the conditions are so restrictive that many of them are not receiving the kind of mental health care that they need.

AMY GOODMAN: What is their legal status? How is it that no man has been tried?

GITA GUTIERREZ: Because the Bush administration continues to defy the Supreme Court and has roped Congress into that effort. The government has refused to move forward in federal court with any hearing on any case that men have brought to challenge their detention. So right now, most of them continue to face a sense of indefinite detention with no prospect of a fair hearing.

AMY GOODMAN: The military tribunals, what will happen to them? And is there any difference now that Democrats are in charge of the House and the Senate right now?

GITA GUTIERREZ: Well, the military tribunals, the military commissions are military criminal trials that, at this point, are only applicable to 10 of the nearly 400 men in Guantanamo. So as a practical matter, they’re not going to have a large impact on the legal status of most of the men. We expect next week for the military to propose and reveal new rules to govern military commissions that may begin this summer. And we would hope that this time around, Congress will exercise more vigorous oversight for the kinds of rules that are applied there.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of habeas corpus being stripped and the military tribunals bill that was just passed, passed by Democrats, as well as Republicans?

GITA GUTIERREZ: Yes, it was. We are hoping that we’ll see a decision from the D.C. Court of Appeals in the next few months, or even sooner, that addresses the constitutionality of that legislation. And we hope — the biggest difference with the Democrats in office now will be that hearings are held on a variety of topics in Guantanamo, on the type of torture and abuse of prisoners, on the accountability for how these policies evolved, and to get some accurate information out to the public and to other government leaders about what’s happening in Guantanamo.

AMY GOODMAN: Gita, the former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, described these men at Guantanamo — more than 700 have been held over the last five years — as the worst of the worst. Over 300 have been released without trial, without charge. Your response, as we wrap up right now? You have 10 seconds.

GITA GUTIERREZ: That’s a lie. According to the government’s own documents, 92 percent of the men at Guantanamo are not al-Qaeda fighters, and these are innocent men who deserve to be released immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Gita Gutierrez, attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, in Washington, D.C. They’re holding a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court today.

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