ACLU Monitoring Unconstitutional Guantánamo Military Commission Trial This Week
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba - The
American Civil Liberties Union is at Guantánamo to monitor the military
commission trial of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul scheduled to begin today. The
ACLU has been present as an independent observer at nearly every
military commission hearing since 2004 and continues to see no
indication that the proceedings are fair, impartial or in accordance
with constitutional principles.
"Clearly something is fundamentally
wrong with a system that admits evidence obtained through torture,
employs ad hoc rules that are made up on the fly and lacks meaningful
constitutional protections," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU
Human Rights Program who is observing al-Bahlul's proceedings. "America
deserves better than a system that is so incompatible with universal
notions of fairness and justice."
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. Currently, 253 detainees
classified as "alien unlawful enemy combatants" remain in U.S. custody
and only 25 have been charged before this flawed military commission
Al-Bahlul, a Yemeni national, was
first tried in the original military commissions. After they were
struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional, he was
charged in the new system after Congress passed the Military
Commissions Act in 2006. Al-Bahlul is alleged to be Osama bin Laden's
communications director and is charged with conspiracy to commit war
crimes, solicitation and material support to terrorism. In August,
al-Bahlul refused to accept military defense counsel and he continues
to represent himself in the current proceedings.
"These commissions don't even
resemble a legitimate justice system - they have become a farce in the
eyes of the world," said Dakwar. "There is absolutely no reason to
continue this sham a single day longer."
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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.
Dakwar will post a series of blogs
containing his 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 work related to the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay can be found online at: www.aclu.org/gitmo
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