By David Danzig, the Deputy Program Director at Human Rights First, is in Cuba to monitor the proceedings and report back on events as they unfold. His previous guest blog post on the proceedings is here.
Guantánamo Bay, July 15, 2009: As the Obama administration and Congress mull reinventing for the third time a legal system to try terrorism suspects, three hearings were held today at Guantánamo Bay in the military commission cases of Omar Khadr, Mohammed Kamin, and Ibrahim al Qosi.
The good news is that changes the Obama administration has asked for may help improve a process that has never operated in a way that folks familiar with the American legal system would recognize as justice. The bad news is that the system is so flawed that these changes cannot salvage it. Meanwhile, our normal federal criminal courts competently go about the business of trying international terrorism cases, to the tune of over one hundred, in the years shortly before and since 9/11. Go figure.
Most of the court time today was spent on motions that the government made seeking a 120-day delay in each of the cases. Doesn't it seem that something is fundamentally wrong with a system in which after six or seven years of holding a man in prison, the government has to ask for another four months to prepare?
Here are some tidbits from the proceedings I observed today.
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"I will take a shower when you guys are ready to send me home," said Mohammed Kamin, a detainee who was captured on May 14, 2003, and has been held at Guantánamo since at least 2004. Kamin declined to attend his hearing today, saying he had no interest in participating in the military commission process and declining an offer for a shower before the hearing. (Kamin's remarks were reported to the court by a representative of the Staff Judge Advocate's office who spoke to the detainee through his "bean hole" - a waist-high slot in his cell that is used to deliver food.)