Guantanamo Bay

  • July 16, 2009
    Guest Post

    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.)

  • July 15, 2009
    Guest Post

     


    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.

     

    Guantánamo Bay, July 14, 2009: Navy Captain John Murphy, the chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, announced today that military prosecutors were ready to proceed with cases against 66 of the more than 220 security detainees held at the naval facility in Guantánamo Bay.

    Speaking to more than two dozen reporters at Guantánamo, Murphy said that he was "personally comfortable" that the government could mount a case that would not depend on evidence gathered through the use of coercion.

    "We have 66 viable cases," Captain Murphy said. He refrained from commenting on whether the government might seek to bring some of those cases to trial in federal civilian courts as it did in the case of Ahmed Ghailani, the alleged East Africa embassy bomber.

    The chief military prosecutor went on to say that he "would not draw timelines" regarding what evidence would and would not be used. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 currently allows for evidence obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to be admitted if it was obtained before December 30, 2005 and meets other criteria.

    Independent observers said they were concerned that the prosecutor's office would be making decisions about what evidence was appropriate and what evidence was not appropriate to use without any independent review, because the statute governing the commissions continues to permit coerced evidence under certain circumstances.