July 10, 2003
The Economist (UK)

Unjust, Unwise, UnAmerican

America's plan to set up military commissions for the trials of terrorist suspects is a big mistake

YOU are taken prisoner in Afghanistan, bound and gagged, flown to the other side of the world and then imprisoned for months in solitary confinement punctuated by interrogations during which you have no legal advice. Finally, you are told what is to be your fate: a trial before a panel of military officers. Your defence lawyer will also be a military officer, and anything you say to him can be recorded. Your trial might be held in secret. You might not be told all the evidence against you. You might be sentenced to death. If you are convicted, you can appeal, but only to yet another panel of military officers. Your ultimate right of appeal is not to a judge but to politicians who have already called everyone in the prison where you are held "killers" and the "worst of the worst". Even if you are acquitted, or if your appeal against conviction succeeds, you might not go free. Instead you could be returned to your cell and held indefinitely as an "enemy combatant".

. . . Such a system is the antithesis of the rule of law which the United States was founded to uphold. In a speech on July 4th, Mr Bush rightly noted that American ideals have been a beacon of hope to others around the world. In compromising those ideals in this matter, Mr Bush is not only dismaying America's friends but also blunting one of America's most powerful weapons against terrorism.


Julian Borger, "Camp Delta rules 'bar' civilian lawyers," Guardian, July 17, 2003

[The heads of 10 leading law bodies around the world call on the US today to give a "fair and lawful trial" to prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay and be a "beacon of justice in an unjust world".--Mark Oliver, "Camp Delta justice urged," Guardian, August 21, 2003]

"Guantanamo detentions blasted," BBC News, October 10, 2003

["As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice, I would have to say that I regard this a monstrous failure of justice. The military will act as interrogators, prosecutors and defence counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners. The trials will be held in private. None of the guarantees of a fair trial need be observed."--Robert Verkaik, "Guantanamo treatment is 'monstrous', says law lord," Independent, November 26, 2003]

Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "MY HELL IN CAMP X-RAY," Mirror (UK), March 12, 2004

[In dismissing the charges against detainees from Canada and Yemen, the judges ruled that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 lacked jurisdiction because that law limits cases to those who are deemed "unlawful enemy combatants." Because a tribunal had officially deemed both men "enemy combatants," the letter of the law did not allow the detainees to go to trial, the judges determined. Prosecutors say they hope to try about 80 of the 380 detainees at Guantanamo, but all such cases are now on hold -- one more setback in a five-year effort to bring even one case to trial.--Josh White and Shailagh Murray, "Guantanamo Ruling Renews The Debate Over Detainees: Bush Policy Faces New Hill Challenge," Washington Post, June 6, 2007]

[William J. Haynes, the Pentagon's chief legal officer and overseer of Guantanamo's Military Commissions, is stepping down, amid mounting controversy over the tribunal process, so he can "return to private life," the Department of Defense announced late on Monday. Haynes' resignation comes exactly two weeks after landmark charges were brought against six "high-value" Guantanamo detainees.

. . . Haynes, along with Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and other Bush Administration appointees, were charged in Germany in 2006 with war crimes, but the charges were withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.

As the tribunals march on, Col. Davis has recently agreed to testify at a pretrial hearing in April for Lt. Commander Mizer's client Salim Hamdan. Mizer will raise a motion to dismiss charges based on unlawful interference by political appointees, and Davis will be one of his witnesses. He will reiterate claims he made publicly about Crawford's and Hartmann's roles in the prosecution.--Ross Tuttle, "Pentagon General Counsel Resigns," Nation, February 26, 2008]

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