Monday, November 08, 2004

Justice Is a Bad Lie

The Bush administration's response to the Supreme Court's ruling last June that Guantanamo Bay prisoners have the right to challenge their detention in federal court is a sham. Neil A. Lewis reports in the New York Times that detainees' status is being determined by the military in closed-door administrative hearings, not by federal courts, in a trailer inside the prison camp. The prisoners are not allowed to have legal representation; they cannot rebut the charges against them because they are not permitted to see the evidence; and their military interrogators wear tape over their name tags so they cannot be identified. There are 550 detainees in Guantanamo at this time. Of this number, 320 have appeared before the military kangaroo hearings; the military has decided the status of 104 of those 320. All but one of that number have been judged to be lawfully detained. Remember, these judgments were made

  • by the military, which has a vested interest in confirming the detainees' enemy combatant status;
  • inside Guantanamo, which is closed and off-limits to the outside world;
  • by anonymous military officials wearing tape over their name tags;
  • without lawyers to represent the detainees; and
  • without showing the detainees the evidence (if any) to support the particular charges against them.

In some cases, detainees have declined to appear before the tribunal. The military has tried those men in absentia.

In addition, the military commission running the separate war crimes trials, which has higher standards of due process (for example, detainees have attorneys), are trying to use evidence from the enemy combatant hearings to convict the detainees in the war crimes trials.

The attorney for David Hicks, from Australia, who is being tried for terrorism and attempted murder, hit the roof over this, pointing out that Hicks faced the death penalty if convicted.
He [Hicks's attorney] said that for the military commission to consider accepting evidence from the other proceeding - a proceeding in which the prisoner cannot confront his accuser or see all of the evidence against him - showed that the war-crimes trials were "not just on a different island from the rest of the world but a different planet."

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