On November 10 the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ), the Center on Law and Security, and NYU Press hosted the launch of The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside A Prison, Outside the Law, a new book edited by Mark Denbeaux ’68 and Jonathan Hafetz.

The Guantánamo Lawyers features over 100 personal narratives from attorneys who represented Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp detainees. In addition to the book, New York University’s Tamiment Library and Seton Hall University’s Center for Policy and Research will collaborate to provide an online archive of the history of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, including additional stories that were not included in The Guantánamo Lawyers, plus lawyers’ records and oral histories, detainee oral histories, Department of Defense websites, photographs, videotapes, and electronic records.

Denbeaux, director of the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research, and Hafetz, an ACLU National Security Project staff attorney and former litigation director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Project discussed the process of creating The Guantánamo Lawyers. “It’s not only about the legal battles,” Hafetz said of the book and the larger project. “It’s also about changing the narrative, changing the discourse, and changing the understanding about what Guantánamo was and why Guantánamo was a human rights catastrophe and a disaster for this nation.”

The book turns the lawyers at Guantánamo into reporters, assigned to tell the stories of the first-hand witnesses—the detainees—that have gone largely untold, especially in English. “This book is not intended to glorify the lawyers,” Denbeaux said. “It’s intended to explain. So people will look at the full range of human beings that were there and the circumstances that existed.”

A panel including Baher Azmy of the Seton Hall School of Law; Ramzi Kassem, of the CUNY School of Law; Jayne Huckerby, adjunct assistant professor and research director at CHRGJ; and Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) read excerpts from the book, conveying the array of emotions—anxiety, uncertainty, hope, triumph—that they experienced as attorney’s for the detainees.

In closing, Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security,  pointed out that in 2001 it took just 70 days for the detention camp at Guantánamo to open following George W. Bush’s executive order allowing the U.S. to detain non-citizens suspected to be involved in international terrorism. “It is slightly more [than 70 days] from today until when President Obama said Guantánamo would close,” Greenberg said hopefully. “So, maybe, we can close it in the same time span in which we opened it.”

Posted on November 18, 2009