WASHINGTON - March 27 - Amnesty International USA Executive Director Dr. William F. Schulz released the following statement in response to the Pentagon's proposed new rule barring the use of any evidence obtained by torture in military commission hearings on the eve of Hamdan v Rumsfeld at the U.S. Supreme Court:
"A rule change banning the use of evidence obtained by torture would be a positive development and brings the Pentagon closer to compliance with Article 15 of the Convention Against Torture, signed and ratified by the United States. However, the devil remains in the details. Without subsequent rules of evidence barring hearsay testimony or testimony by anonymous witnesses, it will be very difficult to determine how evidence was obtained.
"Under no circumstances should any criminal proceeding admit any evidence gained through torture. The military commissions, as flawed as they are, should have addressed this basic issue at their inception. For four years, the commission rules have been silent regarding this issue, which suggests willingness, if not desire, to use such evidence in military proceedings.
"Hamdan v Rumsfeld challenges the fairness and legality of the military commissions. One of the key impediments to a fair trial raised by the Hamdan legal team is admissibility of evidence obtained by torture. For the Pentagon to now say that it is considering barring the use of any evidence obtained by torture on the eve of this Supreme Court case appears disingenuous at best.
"The reality that the Pentagon can change rules at any given moment, even for the better, speaks to the underlying unfairness of a system that can only be described as a moving target. Trying to defend the accused in the current system is like walking in quicksand -- impossible to get a foothold. There is nothing that would prohibit the United States government from retracting any new rule."
"The Supreme Court faces an enormous responsibility in the Hamdan case. At stake are principles of fair trial, constitutionality and equality before the law -- basic values on which the entire U.S. legal system is based. Amnesty International will be watching the Supreme Court case with great interest, while continuing to call for the end to the military commissions and the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay altogether. The U.S. government should now take this opportunity to show its commitment to international human rights standards and abolish trials by military commission at Guantanamo and revoke the Military Order that created them."