ACLU Continues Monitoring Illegitimate Guantánamo Hearings This Week

March 12, 2008 12:00 am

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Credibility Of U.S. Justice System At Stake As Military Commissions Proceed

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NEW YORK – Continuing its role as vigilant monitor of the U.S. Military Commission hearings, the American Civil Liberties Union will be at Guantánamo Bay this week to observe the proceedings of Afghan national Mohammed Jawad, Saudi national Ahmed Mohammad al-Darbi, and Canadian national Omar Ahmed Khadr. The ACLU has attended every military commission proceeding since the system’s inception in 2004 and has seen no indication that the tribunals are fair, impartial or legitimate.

“These proceedings are an affront to the United States’ historic commitment to the principles of due process and the rule of law and have compromised the U.S.’ reputation and credibility worldwide,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Unfortunately, the United States government and the American system of justice will be on trial as much as the Guantánamo prisoners in these proceedings. They need to be shut down. The ACLU will continue to attend the military commission proceedings at Guantánamo Bay in an unrelenting effort to document and expose their fundamental inconsistencies with the Constitution and international law.”

The commission proceedings have been riddled with ethical and legal problems from the very beginning, as they have allowed, among other things, the admission of coerced evidence that may have been obtained through practices condemned throughout the world as torture. CIA Director Michael Hayden has admitted that at least one of the men who will be tried in this system, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was waterboarded by CIA agents during interrogations.

Jawad, 23, in custody since being captured at the age of 17, has told U.S. military officials that he falsely confessed to his alleged crimes after being beaten and tortured following his capture and incarceration by Afghan police in 2002. Both he and al-Darbi, 33, are expected to be formally charged before the commission this week. Lawyers for Khadr will seek the release of key documents and other information central to his defense – including the names of crucial eyewitnesses and the notes of his military interrogators – that U.S. officials have refused to hand over. Jawad and Khadr face charges involving alleged crimes committed when they were minors.

Jawad is accused of throwing a grenade at a military vehicle in Afghanistan in 2002, injuring two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter. The charges against al-Darbi, in U.S. custody for close to six years, are expected to include conspiracy to commit terrorism and material support of terrorism based on an alleged connection to al-Qaeda.

Khadr was only 15 when he was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Now 21, he is charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support and espionage. The murder charge in Khadr’s case relates to a 2002 incident in Afghanistan in which Khadr is alleged to have thrown a grenade, killing a U.S. soldier. The other charges are based on his alleged links to, and support for, al-Qaeda.

“Any possibility that these prisoners might receive fair trials under the military commissions system was long ago compromised,” said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The efforts of the Bush administration to circumvent the Constitution by sending prisoners to Guantánamo Bay have been a fiasco from the start. It’s time to shut down the prison and either release or prosecute fairly the men who remain there.”

The ACLU is one of four organizations that have been granted status as human rights observers at the military commission proceedings. In addition to monitoring the proceedings, the ACLU has repeatedly called on Congress and the Bush administration to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay.

In May 2007, the ACLU endorsed legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would close the Guantánamo facility and end the practice of indefinite detention. It would also provide a push for the government to finally charge the detainees – some of whom have been held without charge for a long as six years – it believes are guilty of crimes against the United States.

Wizner will post a series of blogs containing his comments and observations from the hearings beginning today on the ACLU’s diary on Daily Kos, which can be found at:

His posts can also be found on the ACLU’s blog at:

Additional information about the ACLU’s involvement surrounding the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay can be found online at:

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