The Absence of Justice at Guantanamo Bay
In the aftermath of September 11 2001, in order to protect American citizens from any further terrorist attacks, a Presidential military order gave the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency the power to kidnap and detain anyone suspected of a connection to terrorists or terrorism and to classify them as enemy combatants. This status meant they could not be tried in our regular federal courts. The “enemy combatants” were taken to secret prisons around the world where information could be obtained by any means necessary without any outside interference. The prison which has caught the most public attention is the one located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Senior counter terrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, Jennifer Daskal said, “Over 200 detainees who have not even been charged with a crime are being warehoused in conditions that are in many ways harsher than those reserved for the most dangerous, convicted criminals in the United States.” The Bush Administration has called these prisoners, “the worst of the worst.” Men and children suspected of terrorist connections have been there for more than six years and many don't even know why they were detained in the first place. Many claim they unfortunately were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Who investigates these claims of innocence though? Who decides innocence or guilt in “worst of the worst”, sixteen-year old Omar Khadr's case or fifteen-year old Mohammed El-Ghirani's case? Who determines whether a detainee lied about their terrorist connection so the CIA and foreign governments would stop torturing them? Does the system which ultimately decides whether a prisoner is put to death, or imprisoned for the rest of his life have the same effectiveness as a regular court?
The system the Bush Administration has put in place is not a fair trial system. The Combatant Status Review Tribunal's are military commissions specially designed to try the detainees. Strong evidence shows these particular commissions are corrupt and ultimately ineffective for these three key reasons: They permit the use of “coerced information” or information obtained through the torturing the defendant; the violation of the detainees right to counsel; and the political pressure placed upon the trials by the Executive Branch of the United States government.
The greatest injustice present in the tribunals is the permission to use “coerced” information. Director of the CIA, Michael Haydn has acknowledged the use of waterboarding on detainee, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is said to be one of the masterminds behind the September 11th attacks. Waterboarding is a torture technique designed to simulate drowning and had been prosecuted as torture for the past one-hundred years. Other methods used against detainees include extended sleep deprivation, use of painful stress positions, and forced nudity (Human Rights Watch).
Any information obtained through these methods is allowed by the military commissions so long as they took place before 2006. Also, military commission rules allow the prosecution to withhold all classified sources and methods from the defense counsel. The commissions decided which evidence is classified or not classified based on their own discretion, making it very difficult for the defense counsel to establish whether the evidence was obtained through torture or not (Human Rights Watch).
The problem with using coerced information is that the intelligence gathered is unreliable. According to a document released by the detainment camp to the Senate Armed Services Committee, military trainers at Guantanamo based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” in December of 2002. The chart had been copied word for word from at 1957 study of Chinese communist techniques used against American prisoners during the Korean War. The interrogations, many of which were videotaped,...
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“Canada: Supreme Court Rules Ottawa Complicit in Abuse of Omar Khadr.” Human Rights Watch (2008). 23 May 2008
Daskal, Jennifer. “US: Improve Prison Conditions at Guantanamo.” Human Rights Watch (2008). 10 Jun. 2008
“Fact Sheet: The Military Commissions Act of 2006.” (2008). United States, the White House, George W. Bush. 17 Oct. 2008
Glaberson, William. “Former Prosecutor to Testify for Detainee.” The New York Times (2008). 28 Feb. 2008
Shane, Scott. “China Inspired Interrogations at Guantanamo.” The New York Times (2008). 12 Jun. 2008.
Sullivan, Stacy. “Osama bin Laden’s Media Director Puts on a Show at Guantanamo.” The Huffington Post. (2008).
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Roth, Kenneth. “After Guantanamo.” The Huffington Post (2008). 5 May 2008
“US: Don’t Railroad 9/11 Case through Military Commissions.” Human Rights Watch (2008). 4 Jun. 2008
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