July 25, 2005 – Facing a court-imposed deadline to release photographs and video documenting numerous instances of torture and abuse at the now infamous US-run Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq, lawyers for the Department of Defense Thursday sent the court a letter stating their intention to file papers explaining why it will not adhere to the judgeâ€™s orders, civil liberties groups announced Friday.
The legal brief explaining the reasoning behind the decision will be sealed, meaning most of the information will not be made public, the letter said.
People who have seen the videos, including members of Congress and reporter Seymour Hersh, have reported they include scenes involving far worse abuses than have so far reached the public, including rape and lewd acts committed against and in front of prisoners.
Fridayâ€™s deadline for the release of an estimated 100 photographs and four videos stems from a lawsuit filed after the Defense Department refused to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests by several civil liberties and humanitarian groups. The original deadline was June 2, but a US Circuit Court judge granted the government an extension to allow more time for redactions.
In a statement Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the government of trying to "shield itself from public scrutiny." The group, which is party to the lawsuit demanding that the photos and videos be made public, warned that it is possible that the evidence may never be made public.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on Friday expressed concern that the government is attempting to cover up the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib.
"This is absolutely unacceptable," stated Michael Ratner, President of CCR. "We cannot move forward from this scandal until we have a full public accounting and independent investigation into what happened at Abu Ghraib. The government cannot continue to hide evidence of torture. The time to release these photos and videos was a long time ago."
So far, the government has released over 60,000 pages of documents related to the prison. All have been posted to the internet by the ACLU.
Thursdayâ€™s letter said, in part, that the pictorial evidence of abuse could "result in harm to individuals," the New York Times reported.
The Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace are all party to the suit, in addition to the ACLU and CCR.