WASHINGTON – A human rights group Tuesday published the names of 38 people it believes have been locked up in secret overseas facilities and asked President Bush to disclose the identities and fates of all detainees the CIA has held since 2001.
Among those that Human Rights Watch suspects of being held by the CIA now or at one time is Khalid al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian allegedly picked up in Pakistan in February 2004. Officials from the group say al-Zawahiri is likely the son and former associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, said to be second in command of al-Qaida.
Another on the list is Aafia Siddiqui, a woman who made the FBI’s Most Wanted list for her possible role in alleged al-Qaida plots to launch attacks on U.S. soil.
The New York-based human rights organization included those and other names in a Feb. 26 letter to Bush that was made public Tuesday. It also released a report titled “Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention,” in which it told the story of another terrorism suspect, Marwan Jabour, a Palestinian man who claims he was tortured and held incommunicado for more than two years by the United States and Pakistan.
Human Rights Watch officials said the letter and the report were part of an effort to pry loose more information about detainees who have been held by the CIA or other U.S. authorities.
The White House and CIA had not acknowledged that the detainee program existed until last September, when Bush announced that suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 13 others had been held by the CIA and were being transferred to military custody at Guantanamo Bay.
The Department of Defense is preparing to try those men, including some accused of being al-Qaida’s most dangerous operatives, in some form of hybrid military-criminal justice proceeding.
Joanne Mariner, director of Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program, said in her letter to Bush that the organization understands the need to detain and incarcerate suspected terrorists. But she also said that the United States is breaking the law by holding them in custody without announcing it, and by not giving them a way of contesting their incarceration.
The White House referred calls for comment to the CIA, which said it abides by the rule of law when detaining, transferring and interrogating terrorist suspects.