And the kangaroo hopped away with The Writ...
This New Years' Eve, Tim Golden of the NY Times provides us with a long yet oddly sterile summary of the evolution of "trials" at the base known as GTMO. Regular readers of H&O (hi Sis!) know how closely I have followed the treatment of prisoners at this base (nevermind our own, Canadian GTMO disgrace).
Reading Golden's review, one is tempted to downgrade the 'combatant' review hearings at GTMO to something worse than a kangaroo court (a wombat court?). Whatever it is, it isn't justice. Here's an example culled from Golden's opening passages:
At one end of a converted trailer in the American military detention center here, a graying Pakistani businessman sat shackled before a review board of uniformed officers, pleading for his freedom.And why is the board not permitted to consider the basis upon which the prisoner is held? Why, it's simple: Habeas Corpus--"The Great Writ"--is dead. Gone. Buried. Another casualty of the war-on-terrah. Golden elaborates (ever so slightly):
The prisoner had seen just a brief summary of what officials said was a thick dossier of intelligence linking him to Al Qaeda. He had not seen his own legal papers since they were taken away in an unrelated investigation. He has lawyers working on his behalf in Washington, London and Pakistan, but here his only assistance came from an Army lieutenant colonel, who stumbled as he read the prisoner’s handwritten statement.
As the hearing concluded, the detainee, who cannot be identified publicly under military rules, had a question. He is a citizen of Pakistan, he noted. He was arrested on a business trip to Thailand. On what authority or charges was he even being held?
“That question,” a Marine colonel presiding over the panel answered, “is outside the limits of what this board is permitted to consider.”
Under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in October, this double-wide trailer may be as close to a courtroom as most Guantánamo prisoners ever get. The law prohibits them from challenging their detention or treatment by writs of habeas corpus in the federal courts. Instead, they may only petition a single federal appeals court to examine whether the review boards followed the military’s own procedures in reviewing their status as “enemy combatants.”Now, here's where a very reasonable-type person might ask: What about all of those people who were actually released from Guantanamo? How did they get out? Well, there is no consistent explanation for why certain prisoners are released. Par example, although it would appear that pressure from Saudi allies resulted in the release of 29 Saudis a few weeks ago (*cough* following Dick Cheney's powwow with the House of Saud *cough*), but what of David Hicks, the Australian man who's been languishing in GTMO since late 2001? Is John Howard that feeble-of-voice that he can't pressurize Bush for Hicks' release to the Aussie authorities? What of Omar Khadr, the Canadian teenager who was arrested in 2002 at the age of 15? Do we not care? Seriously?! Hell, I blame all of us for allowing this kid to rot down there. I don't care who his daddy was.
Say...while we're on Canada: do you remember Harper's ootrage in November over the Chinese government's detention of Huseyin Celil, a Muslim Canadian of Uighur descent? Oh boy, was he mad. He was gonna get tough with China, nevermind trade or 'relations,' Harper was gonna give them what-for about that Uighur guy, damn "the almighty dollar." Now that was odd. You see, I don't remember reading aboot Harper's outrage over the detention of 22 Uighur prisoners in Guantanamo. Nope. I heard crickets. Thomas Walkom noticed the crickets too.
You know, I realize that Harper doesn't read my backwater-blog ("Habeas Schmaebeas"), or even the great Thomas Walkom. But maybe, just maybe he'll read today's NY Times (back to Golden's piece):
The Uighurs’ sworn enemy was not the United States but the Communist government of China, which had long oppressed their people. The military accused the detainees of belonging to a separatist group that the Chinese authorities had persuaded Washington to list as a terrorist organization, but some experts on the region disputed that characterization of the group and the detainees denied any link to it.Can anyone read about the GTMO Uighurs and reasonably conclude that prisoners do not deserve the right to challenge their detention? No need for habeas corpus? You're not alone: 7 retired American federal judges filed a brief with the US Court of Appeals (DC Circuit), asserting that:
The State Department, fearful that the men would be tortured if they were sent back to China, had already begun trying to place the Uighurs as refugees in Europe when their cases came for review at Guantánamo, officials said.
“We were shocked that they even sent those guys before the C.S.R.T.’s [Combatant Status Review Tribunals]” said one former national security official who worked on the matter. “They had already been identified for release.”
Because the Uighurs told very similar stories, Pentagon officials were confounded when at least five of them were determined not to be enemy combatants and the rest properly held, officials said. At least several of the Uighurs, including some found not to be enemy combatants, had their cases reviewed again, officials said. They described the impetus for doing so as “quality control.” But available documents show that at least one of the detainees, whose case was reviewed again, was finally found to be an enemy combatant. Five Uighur detainees were finally sent to Albania as refugees in May.
[...]"enemy combatants" should be allowed to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.The result? The brief was rejected on a technicality:
Seven retired federal judges from both political parties filed a friend-of-the-court brief in November, urging the appeals court to declare parts of the new law, which was signed by President Bush this fall, unconstitutional.
They said the law, which sets up military commissions to hear terrorism cases, "challenges the integrity of our judicial system" and effectively sanctions the use of torture.
In a 2 to 1 decision yesterday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it would not accept the judges' brief on a legal technicality, saying the title "judge" should not be used to describe former judges in legal proceedings.And the kangaroo hopped away with The Writ...
[...] The appeals panel's more conservative judges, David B. Sentelle and A. Raymond Randolph, issued the opinion, with Judge Judith W. Rogers, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, dissenting. Carl W. Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said it is unusual for such briefs to be rejected.
Read on, MacDuff!