Guantanamo Bay

The Justice Center is committed to ensuring that authorities at the local and national level follow the U.S. Constitution and international law when holding prisoners. The Justice Center litigates on behalf of individuals held against their will and without proper charges in order to hold government accountable to make a clear and legal case for any incarceration.

MJC Attorney Represents Guantanamo Prisoner at Center of Torture Debate

MacArthur Justice Center attorney Joseph Margulies represents Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo prisoner who was the subject of the infamous torture memo. Husayn is the only prisoner subjected to all ten of the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."

These brutal techniques have been the subject of intense media reporting and were described in a secret report prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with other memos prepared by the Justice Department that authorized abu Zubaydah's torture.

Husayn's case illustrates the many pitfalls in the use of torture. Not long after his arrest, President Bush described him as "one of the top three leaders" in al Qaeda, and "al Qaeda's chief of operations." But abu Zubaydah, we now understand, was nothing like what the President believed. He was never al Qaeda. The journalist Ron Suskind was the first to ask the right questions. In his 2006 book, The One Percent Doctrine, he described abu Zubaydah as a minor logistics man, a travel agent.

Later and more detailed reporting in the Washington Post, quoting Justice Department officials, said he provided "above-ground support. ...To make him the mastermind of anything is ridiculous." More recently, the New York Times, relying on current and former intelligence officers, said the initial assessment was "highly inflated" and reflected "a profound misunderstanding" of abu Zubaydah. Far from a leader, he was "a personnel clerk." The Post article also quoted Margulies:

The government doesn't retreat from who [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] is, and neither does [he]... With Zubaida, it's different. The government seems to finally understand he is not at all the person they thought he was. But he was tortured. And that's just a profoundly embarrassing position for the government to be in.

Updated - 05/05/2009

Military Commission Allegations Based on Tortured Confession

MacArthur Justice Center client Binyam A. Mohammed has been charged by the U.S. military with conspiracy to detonate a radioactive "dirty" bomb and to carry out terrorist attacks on the U.S. He is accused of plotting these attacks with American prisoner José Padilla, whom he claims he has never met. His military charge sheet also describes al Qaeda training in weapons and urban warfare, even though Mohammed does not speak Arabic.

The charges are based on confessions made by Mohammed while allegedly being tortured in prisons in Morocco and Afghanistan. The case will raise important questions as to the validity of confessions made under torture. Mohammed is being represented by center attorney Joseph Margulies and Clive Stafford Smith of London. Mohammed has declined defense from Maj. Yvonne Bradley, a military-appointed defense lawyer because she has a conflict of interest. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 12, 2006, at Guantánamo Bay.

Update - 11/07/2005

U.S. Supreme Court Decides Case

Supreme Court Strikes Down Indefinite Detention Without Legal Process for Guantanamo Prisoners

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (pdf) that the Bush administration's policy of detaining foreign nationals without legal process at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station is illegal. The Court determined that the prisoners cannot be held in a prison beyond the law, and are entitled to basic legal rights.

Download court opinion (pdf)

Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion (pdf)

Dissenting opinion (pdf)

Update - 06/28/2004

Supreme Court Heard Arguments in Guantanamo Detainees Case; MJC Attorney Joseph Margulies Is Lead Counsel

On April 20, 2004, oral arguments were heard by the United States Supreme Court in the cases of Rasul v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S. These are the first and only cases taken by the Supreme Court that challenge the Bush administration's policy of indefinite detention of foreign "enemy combatants" at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. MacArthur Justice Center Attorney Joseph Margulies is the lead counsel for Shafiq Rasul. A decision is expected this summer.

Amicus brief filed by Geoffrey R. Stone on behalf of Fred Korematsu in support of petitioners (pdf)

Petitioners' brief on the merits (pdf)

Update - 04/20/2004