ACLU Opposes Justice Department Efforts To Throw Out Case Challenging Illegal Detention Of Guantánamo Prisoner Mohammed Jawad

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

James Freedland, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Opposes Justice Department Efforts To Throw Out Case Challenging Illegal Detention Of Guantánamo Prisoner Mohammed Jawad

Government Improperly Seeks Dismissal Or Delay Based On Halted Military Commissions Proceedings

WASHINGTON - The
American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion today opposing the
Justice Department’s move to dismiss or delay a challenge to the
unlawful detention of Mohammed Jawad, a Guantánamo prisoner who has
been held in U.S. custody since he was a teenager. Despite President
Obama’s executive order halting military commission proceedings, the
government is moving forward with a last-minute effort by the Bush
administration to deny Jawad his right to challenge his detention in
federal court until after the commissions case against him is complete.

“Mr. Jawad’s case is the epitome of
everything that’s wrong with the military commissions because his
detention and prosecution were based on a confession that was tortured
out of him. For the government to try to use the unconstitutional
commissions as an excuse for delaying federal court habeas review of
Mr. Jawad’s case makes no sense,” said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with
the ACLU National Security Project. “President Obama followed through
on his campaign promise to halt the military commissions and Attorney
General Holder has said the commissions do not provide due process
protections, but the Justice Department still seems to be playing
catch-up. The new administration should do the right thing and reject
Bush administration policies that sought to evade independent judicial
oversight of Mr. Jawad’s unlawful detention.”

Jawad, now about 23, has been in
U.S. 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 children. He is accused of throwing
a hand grenade at two U.S. service members and their interpreter in
Afghanistan. Jawad's former military commission prosecutor, Lt. Col.
Darrel Vandeveld, submitted a 14-page statement in support of the
ACLU's habeas corpus challenge stating that the flaws in the commission
system make it impossible "to harbor the remotest hope that justice is
an achievable goal." Lt. Col. Vandeveld's statement describes other
torture Jawad suffered in U.S. custody.

The Bush administration previously
told the judge in Jawad's military commission case that the centerpiece
of its case against him was evidence the judge had suppressed because
it was obtained through torture. Prosecutors subsequently appealed the
judge's decision to throw out the torture-derived evidence. After
President Obama assumed office, he instructed the Secretary of Defense
to seek a halt to all commission proceedings, including Jawad’s. The
Court of Military Commission Review, the system’s appeals court,
granted the government’s request for a stay based in part on a finding
that Mr. Jawad’s habeas case could still proceed in federal court.

“After unjustly detaining and
abusing Mr. Jawad for over six years, the government’s effort to
prosecute Mr. Jawad in the commissions has been an abject failure. All
Mr. Jawad is asking is to have his day in court so he can prove his
innocence," said U.S. Air Force Major David J. R. Frakt, who represents
Jawad in the military commissions case and is co-counsel in the habeas
case. "The government’s continued stonewalling, particularly when both
President Obama and the Chief Judge of the Military Commission Court of
Review has recognized his right to habeas review, is inexcusable. A
prompt habeas hearing is especially necessary because Mr. Jawad’s
mental and physical well-being continue to be jeopardized by the harsh
conditions in which he is being held at Guantánamo. The government
seems to have lost sight of a fundamental truth – justice delayed is
justice denied.”

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 Maj. Frakt.

The ACLU's legal brief is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/38759lgl20090218.html

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld's statement is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/38370lgl20090112.html

A video featuring Shamsi and Vandeveld explaining Jawad's habeas corpus case is available online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2-nv3MRIAw

Additional information about the Jawad case can be found online at: www.aclu.org/jawad

 

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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.

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