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Impartiality and AG Gonzales

Jamil Dakwar,
Director, ACLU Human Rights Program
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April 7, 2006

After a long voir dire hearing, the defense team decided to challenge the presiding officer's fitness and impartiality on two grounds: 1) his extensive search and research of media articles regarding the case, in violation of the model code for judicial conduct; 2) his pending job application with the Justice Department for a position as an immigration law judge.

The defense focused on the second challenge and argued that an immigration judge is subject to the Attorney General, who is very much interested in the outcome of the Khadr case before the military commission.

Attorney General Gonzales attended the Hamdan arguments at the Supreme Court, has defended the military commission and even published a 2001 op-ed defending the creation of the military commissions. He has also been part of the chain of command. Moreover, Mr. Khadr is party to litigation against the U.S. government, which is represented by the Justice Department, including in the current military commission proceedings!

The presiding officer, Col. Chester, denied the challenge and will publish his ruling on April 19. As more detainees appear before the military commission, the flaws in the system are only increasing and becoming more problematic. A system that is built from scratch and does not rely on valid and recognized constitutional and international standards of fairness and due process will only produce a travesty of justice.

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