Friday, March 17, 2006

"Habeas Schmaebeas"

This is mandatory: please go & listen to Jack Hitt's latest program, "Habeas Schmaebeas" on Chicago public radio (click on the Real Audio link or buy the CD for $13). Here's a blurb:
The right of habeas corpus has been a part of this country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means the government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the war on terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that the prisoners should not be covered by habeas – or even by the Geneva Conventions – because they're the most fearsome terrorist enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?
Thanks to The Majority Report for having Jack Hitt on Air America to promote his program. I learned, among other things:
  • only 5% GITMO prisoners are people who were picked up by the US; the rest were turned over by Pakistani army/intel or the Northern Alliance, usually in exchange for significant bounties
  • The Pentagon actually has an official designation for innocent detainees: "NLEC" or "no-longer enemy combatant"; Hitt alluded to this Dec 23, 2005 WaPo article about a specific subgroup of NLEC prisoners:
A federal judge in Washington ruled [December 22] that the continued detention of two ethnic Uighurs at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is "unlawful," but he decided he had no authority to order their release.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson criticized the government's detention of Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Hakim, who have been jailed at Guantanamo for four years; they have been cleared for release because the government has determined they are not enemy combatants and are not a threat to the United States. But Robertson said his court has "no relief to offer" because the government has not found a country to accept the men and because he does not have authority to let them enter the United States.
Robertson wrote that the government has taken too long to arrange a release for the men, who cannot return to their Chinese homeland because they would likely be tortured or killed there. U.S. authorities have asked about two dozen countries to grant the men political asylum, but none has accepted, in part out of fear of angering China.
The Uighurs -- along with seven other detainees who have been found to be "no longer enemy combatants" -- are in Guantanamo's Camp Iguana, a less-restrictive area of the prison. They were cleared by a combatant status review tribunal about nine months ago, but no solution for their release has been reached. Robertson wrote that their situation is untenable.
"The detention of these petitioners has by now become indefinite," Robertson wrote in a 12-page opinion. "This indefinite imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay is unlawful."
Hitt also interviews Seton Hall law prof. Baher Azmy about the prisoners and, more specifically, about one of his clients. If Azmy's name rings a bell, you're not alone:
"THE EXPERIMENT: The military trains people to withstand interrogation. Are those methods being misused at Guantánamo?" (Jane Mayer, New Yorker, July 11, 2005):
Baher Azmy, a professor at Seton Hall Law School, in Newark, New Jersey, represents a Guantánamo detainee named Murat Kurnaz, a twenty-three-year-old Turkish citizen who was born in Germany. Kurnaz, who was apprehended while on a trip to Pakistan, has been detained in Guantánamo since 2002. Azmy told me that Kurnaz has complained of being sexually taunted by female interrogators who, he said, offered to have sex with him in exchange for giving information. When one woman began embracing him from behind, Kurnaz said, he turned and head-butted her. According to Kurnaz, he was then beaten by members of the Initial Reaction Forces, a military-police squad that patrols the cellblocks. Kurnaz claimed that he was made to lie on the floor, with his hands cuffed behind his back, for nearly a day. He also told Azmy that he was threatened with starvation and forcibly injected with unknown and debilitating drugs. (All of Kurnaz’s charges have been denied by U.S. authorities.) Azmy told me, “These psychological gambits are obviously not isolated events. They’re prevalent and systematic. They’re tried, measured, and charted. These are ways to humiliate and disorient the detainees. The whole place appears to be one giant human experiment.”
Azmy was also interviewed by the (excellent) "cageprisoners.com" site. Please check that out, along with the other interviews compiled on this site.

Made in Canada injustice: Thursday's papers announced some pretty damning stuff.
  1. Khadr to face extradition hearing: Brother already being held at Guantanamo Bay
  2. Suspected terrorist 'step closer' to deportation (this last one refers to Mahmoud Jaballah, one of 4 men currently held under those disgusting "security" certificates).
Brian, of Zerra.net, has done an amazing job of keeping track of the 4 men held without charge under these security certificates. Please visit his site and sign the petition (if you haven't already). Also, please see "Sumoud: A Political Prisoner Solidarity Group" for announcements regarding protests, actions and new legal developments.

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