(New York) – The United States is holding at least twenty-six persons as “ghost detainees” at undisclosed locations outside of the United States, Human Rights Watch said today, as it released a list naming some of the detainees. The detainees are being held indefinitely and incommunicado, without legal rights or access to counsel.
Many of the detainees listed are suspected of involvement in serious crimes, including the September 11, 2001 attacks; the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; and the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia. One of the detainees listed was indicted in U.S. federal court for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings. None of the other detainees has been charged with any crime. Officials in the U.S. government, speaking anonymously to journalists, have suggested that some detainees have been tortured or otherwise seriously mistreated in custody.
“President Bush speaks about bringing terrorists to justice, yet not one of these suspects has actually been brought to justice,” said John Sifton, terrorism and counterterrorism researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The Bush administration has severely compromised the chances of prosecuting terrorist suspects by holding them illegally, and reportedly subjecting some of them to torture and other mistreatment.”
Indefinite incommunicado detention and torture are illegal under international human rights law and the laws of war, and the mistreatment of detainees could subject U.S. officials to criminal liability.