Colorado ACLU: Supermax move for Gitmo detainees would mock justice

Politicians in Colorado are split over the chance detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, could be imprisoned at the Supermax federal detention facility in Florence. Some say Supermax can handle Gitmo suspects just fine, others warn it’s too dangerous. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado said in a statement to the Colorado Independent Friday afternoon that moving Gitmo detainees — including many only suspected of crimes — to the country’s most secure prison “is simply another form of torture, one which makes a mockery of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ ”

While the Obama administration’s plans to shut down Gitmo earn the group’s applause, ACLU of Colorado executive director Cathryn Hazouri says the conditions at Supermax won’t be an improvement for terror suspects. Noting that several Gitmo detainees have been released after the Bush administration admitted it couldn’t prove guilt, Hazouri questions whether a move to the tiny cells at Supermax, where most inmates are kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, is fair treatment for suspects awaiting trial.

Hazouri’s full statement follows:

The ACLU of Colorado applauds President Obama for making the closure of the prison at Guantánamo his administration’s first priority. We welcome these steps towards restoring the rule of law in America. For those considering Colorado’s ADX Florence prison (Supermax) as an alternative facility for housing these detainees, we offer these considerations. Many of the detainees are being held without charges while still awaiting trial. They haven’t been convicted of any crime and for many there is no evidence against them. While a transfer to the Supermax facility will indisputably bring the detainees under the protection of the United States justice system, overall their living conditions will not improve.

This prison is the most secure federal prison in the nation. Most individuals are kept in solitary confinement for at least 23 hours each day. They live in a 7×12 ft room with walls and furniture built almost entirely out of concrete. The single free hour is spent exercising alone in a separate concrete chamber. The federal government reserves these conditions for the worst of the worst, such as convicted terrorists Ted Kaczynski, 1993 World Trade Center bombers Omar Abdel-Rahman and Ramzi Yousef, and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph. The cases against these men were clear, and they themselves were unapologetic in their guilt.

In contrast, many of the Guantánamo detainees are merely suspected of being guilty. They are held without charge, without the ability to see the evidence against them or to offer contrary evidence in their own defense. Several of them have been released after the last administration finally admitted it had no proof of their guilt. While at Guantánamo they endured psychological and physical torture such as waterboarding and sexual degradation, but at least they had two hours of exercise per day and some contact with others, if only by yelling from cell to cell. Waterboarding and the like won’t happen at Supermax, but for these men awaiting trial, indefinite detention in total sound and sight isolation is simply another form of torture, one which makes a mockery of “innocent until proven guilty.” To release these individuals from Guantánamo Bay, only to send them to the toughest prison in the country could well be considered a move “out of the frying pan into the fire.”

Cathryn Hazouri
Executive Director, ACLU of Colorado

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Ernest Luning

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