ACLU Monitoring Unconstitutional Guantánamo Military Commissions This Week
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - The
American Civil Liberties Union is at Guantánamo monitoring the military
commission hearings of Omar Khadr and Mohammed Kamin and the
arraignment of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani scheduled to take place this
week. The ACLU has been present as an independent observer at nearly
every commission hearing since 2004 and continues to see no indication
that the proceedings are fair, impartial or in accordance with
"From the get go, these deeply
flawed commissions have stacked the deck in favor of the Bush
administration. Any judicial system that allows evidence obtained
through torture is fundamentally incompatible with the American system
of justice," said Judy Rabinovitz, an ACLU attorney who is observing
this week's proceedings. "With the whole world watching these
proceedings, the U.S. must stand up, reject this system and reaffirm
its commitment to the rule of law."
Tainted by political interference,
the proceedings have been riddled with ethical and legal problems from
day one. Among other things, the proceedings allow the admission of
secret evidence, hearsay and evidence obtained through torture. The
Bush administration has admitted that at least three detainees in its
custody have been subjected to waterboarding.
In September, a military judge
banned Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, a Pentagon general, from acting as a
legal advisor in Khadr's case because of bias towards the prosecution.
Several weeks later, the Department of Defense announced that Hartmann
would be "reassigned" to a newly created post - director of court
logistics - and replaced by his deputy as the military commissions'
legal advisor. Pledging to prosecute detainees at a quick pace,
Hartmann said that his goal in his new post is "to keep the process
moving, really intensely," an objective that raises questions about
trials that cut corners, deny basic fairness and are aimed at
convictions rather than uncovering the truth.
"The Khadr case in particular has
illustrated the legal black hole that Guantánamo represents," said
Rabinovitz. "Our government should end this farce and make a fresh
start in America's traditional civilian or military courts where the
Constitution still means something."
Now 21, Khadr was 15 when he was
captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade
that killed a U.S. soldier. In a signed, nine-page affidavit, Khadr
charges that he was repeatedly threatened with rape during
interrogations while held both in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay.
Kamin is alleged to have provided martial support to al Qaeda and the
Taliban between January and May 2003. Ghailani, who was transferred to
the Guantánamo prison camp from secret CIA custody in 2006, is
scheduled be arraigned for crimes related to the 1998 U.S. Embassy
bombing in Tanzania. Ghailani was already indicted ten years ago in a
U.S. federal court.
The ACLU is one of four
organizations that have been granted status as human rights observers
at the military commission proceedings. In addition to monitoring the
commissions, the ACLU has repeatedly called on Congress and the Bush
administration to shut down the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo
In May 2007, the ACLU endorsed
legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would close
the Guantánamo facility and end the practice of indefinite detention.
It would also provide a push for the government to finally charge the
Guantánamo detainees, some of whom have been held without charge for
over six years.
Rabinovitz will post a series of
blogs containing her comments and observations from the hearings on the
ACLU's Blog of Rights, which can be found at: blog.aclu.org
Additional information about the
ACLU's involvement surrounding the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo
Bay can be found online at: www.aclu.org/gitmo