[Pnews] New Report Highlights Extreme Isolation Endured by Terrorism Suspects
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 22 15:21:23 EDT 2014
*New Report Highlights Extreme Isolation Endured by Terrorism Suspects*
by Aviva Stahl
July 22, 2014
On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in association with Columbia Law
School released a 214-page reported entitled Illusion of Justice: Human
Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions. While the report and
accompanying video document a wide range of human and civil rights
abuses faced by alleged and convicted terrorists, nearly all of whom are
Muslims, a significant portion of the text focuses on the restrictive
and arguably torturous conditions of confinement they endure both before
and after trial.
Extensively detailed in the report are the conditions endured by those
placed in Florence ADX federal supermax prison and in the federal Bureau
of Prisons' two Communication Management Units (CMUs), located at
Marion, Illinois and Terre Haute, Indiana. Describing life at ADX, one
individual interviewed for the report commented, "There's a lot of times
the walls are caving in. It's -- you can't talk to nobody... It's like
staying alone in a bathroom for three days."
In the two CMUs -- nicknamed "Little Guantanamos" -- "inmates are
constantly surveilled and their communication with the outside world is
heavily restricted," including with their families. The Center for
Constitutional Rights has previously described the CMUs as an
"experiment in social isolation."
Also featured in the report is an analysis of the use and misuse of
Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), restrictions placed on inmates,
attorneys and even their families purportedly to protect national
security or prevent the disclosure of classified material. As authors
note, "SAMs often require the imposition of extreme physical and social
isolation. In the order we obtained through a FOIA regarding 20 to 22
prisoners, SAMs banned at least 20 prisoners from 'making statements
audible to other prisoners or sending notes' and required them to be
housed in single cells 'separated as much as possible in cellblock area
form other inmates.'"
SAMs also enhance isolation by preventing prisoners from communicating
with the outside world -- for example, letters to family are limited to
"'3 pieces of paper, once per week, single recipient'" and visits
"require 14 days' notice and can include only one adults at a time."
Severe restrictions are also placed on material coming to the inside;
one prisoner was even initially denied access to both of President
The report also specifically addresses how the imposition of SAMs and
the use of solitary confinement pre-trial may affect the fairness and
constitutionality of the courts:
Prolonged pretrial solitary confinement not only raises concerns of
cruel and inhumane treatment of punishment, but it also has an impact on
defendants' ability to assist in their own defense, and may compel them
to wave their trial rights and accept plea deals.
According to the report, 30 out of the 52 individuals currently facing
federal terrorism charges are being held in Special Housing Units
(SHUs). The conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC)
10-South unit -- where many terrorism defendants have been held
pre-trial -- are described at length in the text. In a letter to his
sister, an individual who spent 33 months in solitary confinement at MCC
described "a bright light on for twenty-four hours" and cells "extremely
cold throughout the year."
MCC is the prison where the No Separate Justice Campaign has been
holding its monthly vigils, in hopes of shining a light on the exact
kind of injustices detailed in HRW's report. It is also where Mahdi
Hashi, the Briton stripped of his citizenship and rendered to the United
States last year, is being held in 24-hour isolation. In an April 2014
article published on Vice, Mohammad Hashi explained how being held under
SAMs and in solitary confinement was impacting his son: "It's like they
want to demoralize him... If you're left locked in a room, 23 hours a
day, knowing nothing about what's going on, obviously you will give up,
life will have no meaning to you."
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