ACLU Files Habeas Petition Challenging Guantánamo Detention Of Prisoner Captured As Juvenile
Former Prosecutor Supports ACLU Legal Effort Representing Mohammed Jawad
WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition for habeas
corpus today in federal court in the District of Columbia to challenge the
unlawful detention of Mohammed Jawad, who has been held for over six years at
Guantánamo Bay. Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the former lead prosecutor in Jawad's
military commission case, is supporting the ACLU's legal challenge.
Jawad, now about 23 years old, has been in custody since he was captured at
the age of 16 or 17 and is one of two Guantánamo prisoners the United States is
prosecuting for acts allegedly committed when they were juveniles. Jawad is
accused of throwing a hand grenade at two U.S. service members and their
interpreter in Afghanistan.
"It would be a miscarriage of justice for President-elect Obama to continue
Mr. Jawad's unlawful detention in Guantánamo, particularly considering that Mr.
Jawad was captured as a teenager and detained based on alleged confessions
obtained through torture," said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU
National Security Project. "The Bush administration compounded this injustice by
using torture-derived evidence to prosecute Mr. Jawad for war crimes in the
unconstitutional military commissions. The government's continued detention and
prosecution of Mr. Jawad violates America's values and the Constitution, as well
as this country's binding obligations under the Geneva Conventions and human
In September, prosecutor Vandeveld left the military commissions because he
did not believe he could ethically proceed with the case. In a declaration filed
in support of Jawad's petition, Vandeveld told the court that there is "no
credible evidence or legal basis" to justify Jawad's detention and prosecution,
and that the commission system's flaws make it impossible for anyone "to harbor
the remotest hope that justice is an achievable goal." Vandeveld does not
believe Jawad's release presents any risk.
"I have no doubt at all – none – that Mr. Jawad would pose no threat
whatsoever to me, his former prosecutor and now-repentant persecutor," said
Vandeveld in his declaration. "Six years is long enough for a boy of sixteen to
serve in virtual solitary confinement, in a distant land, for reasons he may
never fully understand. Mr. Jawad should be released to resume his life in a
civil society, for his sake, and for our own sense of justice and perhaps to
restore a measure of our basic humanity."
In a separate legal case argued today, the Bush administration is in the
United States Court of Military Commission Review appealing a military
commission judge's decision to throw out the torture-tainted evidence against
Jawad. In November, Army judge Col. Stephen Henley held that evidence collected
while Jawad was in U.S. custody could not be admitted in his trial because it
had been obtained under duress. The government told the judge that Jawad's
alleged confessions were the centerpiece of its case against him and has asked
the proceedings to be stayed until the appeals court rules.
"The fact that the government persists in trying to use evidence obtained
through torture says everything you need to know about the integrity of its
case," said U.S. Air Force Major David J. R. Frakt, who represents Jawad in the
military commission case and is co-counsel in the habeas case. "But the larger
problem is that Mr. Jawad should never have been prosecuted in the military
commissions system at all. Our values of due process and fair justice apply to
all defendants and should not depend upon whom we are prosecuting and what the
alleged crimes are. Mr. Jawad's only meaningful opportunity to challenge the
basis for his detention comes through this habeas case, in a legitimate court."
Among other forms of abusive treatment, Jawad was subjected to the military's
so-called "frequent flyer" program, in which detainees at Guantánamo were
subjected to sleep deprivation for extended periods of time. In May 2004, a few
months after Jawad tried to commit suicide in his cell, prison officials
deprived him of sleep for two weeks by moving him 112 times in 14 days – and
they did so after having been ordered by their commanding general to discontinue
this inhumane program.
Attorneys on the habeas case are Shamsi and Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU
National Security Project, Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital
Area and Frakt.
The ACLU's legal brief and the declaration from Vandeveld are available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/38305lgl20090113.html
Additional information about the ACLU's work related to the detention of
prisoners at Guantánamo Bay can be found online at: www.aclu.org/gitmo
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.