ACLU and Human Rights Groups Call for Government to Replace Guantánamo Military Commissions with "Fair and Impartial Trials"

August 27, 2004

ACLU and Human Rights Groups Call for Government to Replace Guantánamo Military Commissions with ""Fair and Impartial Trials""

Joint Statement of NGO Observers at Guantánamo Bay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, CUBA -- Despite the laudable professionalism of military officials throughout this week's military commissions, observers for Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union today called on the U.S. government to replace the military commissions with a process that would provide fair and impartial trials consistent with U.S. and international standards.

The first four days of proceedings highlighted the structural problems already predicted by legal observers. Among the most significant concerns were:

  • The absence of an independent review process outside the military chain of command; 
  • Rules of evidence that are stacked against the defendants; and 
  • Designation of commission panel members with little legal experience to decide complicated issues of military, U.S., and international law. 

The legal and human rights trial observers said that compounding these problems were a series of inadequacies that should be immediately addressed. Most notable were:

  • The significant translation failures that undermined the credibility of the week's proceedings, and
  •  The U.S. government had not yet provided the defense team with sufficient staff and resources. 

Moreover, serious questions emerged about the appearance of bias among members of the military commission. The presiding officer's close friendship with the appointing authority, who is supposed to direct and review the presiding officer's determinations, also could raise doubts about the process's impartiality. Some commission members apparently also had direct intelligence or operational responsibilities over detainees, including some of the defendants, which might impede impartial deliberation.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero was present for the trials this week and reported his observations in a daily weblog, online at /cpredirect/18499

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