ACLU To Observe Unconstitutional Guantánamo Military Commissions This Week

May 21, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union will be at Guantánamo Bay this week to observe the U.S. military commission pre-trial hearing of Sudanese national Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi and the arraignment of Afghan national Mohammed Kamin. The ACLU has been present as an independent observer at every commission hearing since 2004 and continues to see no indication that the proceedings are fair, impartial or in accordance with constitutional principles.

“The reputation of the United States has been damaged throughout the world as a result of a military commission system that does not reflect the fundamental principles of fairness and justice,” said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “This system flies in the face of both the Constitution and international law. By observing the military commissions, the ACLU will continue to expose and raise awareness of these flawed proceedings.”

The proceedings have been riddled with ethical and legal problems from day one, as they allow, among other things, the admission of coerced evidence that may have been obtained through torture. The Bush administration has admitted that at least three men in its custody have been subjected to waterboarding.

This week’s hearings come on the heels of yesterday’s release of a Justice Department report that addressed the torture and abuse of Guantánamo and other U.S.-held detainees and the concerns raised by FBI agents about the use of such interrogation techniques.

“There needs to be a fair and just process, which is the only way guilt can be determined,” said Dakwar. “This system is subjected to political influence and relies on coerced confessions that may have been extracted by torture and secret evidence that a defendant cannot refute. This is not justice.”

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 commissions, the ACLU has repeatedly called on Congress and the Bush administration to shut down the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.

The charges against al-Qosi, who was among the first prisoners to be brought to Guantánamo Bay in January 2002, include conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism based on alleged connections to al-Qaeda. Kamin is alleged to have provided martial support to al Qaida and the Taliban between January and May 2003.

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 Guantánamo detainees, some of whom have been held without charge for over six years.

Dakwar will post a series of blogs containing his comments and observations from the hearings beginning today on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights, which can be found 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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