Gag order imposed on Guantanamo whistleblower

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Friday, October 13, 2006

On Friday October 13, Colonel Carol Joyce, the Marines' chief defense counsel, imposed a gag order on Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, the lead military counsel for Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr and Sgt. Heather Cerveny, the team's paralegal.

On her first visit to Guantanamo, Cerveny was approached by off-duty guards who bragged to her of how they abused detainees. They told of arbitrarily seizing detainee's toiletries and other belongings, in order to provoke their emotions so they would have a justification for using force against them. They told of arbitrary beatings. One guard bragged about banging a detainee's face against the door of his cell without any justification.

On October 6 2006 Cerveny swore an affidavit describing the hour-long conversation she had with the off-duty guards in the Guantanamo military club, prompting calls for an inquiry. In an interview on October 12, Cerveny said, "It was a general consensus that I (detected) that as a group this is something they did. That this was OK at Guantanamo, that this is how the detainees get treated,"

In a statement Colonel Joyce explained she had imposed the gag order pending a review of the facts, "This is necessary to ensure all actions of counsel are in compliance with regulations establishing professional standards for military attorneys,"

According to Muneer Ahmad, Khadr's civilian lawyer, the gag order imposes a dilemma for the military members of Khadr's defense team. He said Vokey wasn't only barred from talking about Cerveny's affidavit, he was barred from talking about any aspect of the military commissions. Ahmad said Vokey previously had permission to speak with the media.

According to the San Diego Union Tribune Ahmad said the gag order had put Vokey in a dilemma: "It's in Omar's interests for the truth about abuses of detainees at Guantanamo, including him, to get out in the open. But Colby (Vokey) is being prevented from doing that part of his job ... and thereby representing Omar's interests, I think he is very concerned about his ability to perform his job as a lawyer,"