Saturday, March 31, 2007

Are the Guantanamo Tribunals Legal?

Required for Con Law and Internship Students (Read at least two of the sources linked below).

Over the past weeks the U.S. military has announced several confessions by detainees before the Military Commission in Guantanamo Bay. Then, last week, an Australian detainee, David Hicks, plead guilty to assisting Al Qaeda. These developments raised additional questions about the legality of the Commissions and the treatment of the detainees:

1. Hicks plead guilty only after two of his lawyers were disqualified from representing him. The lawyers refused to sign a form pledging to abide by rules that the Dept. of Justice has not yet set. The UK Independent reports on the plea.

2. After his guilty plea, Hicks was sentenced to mere months in prison - despite a jury recommendation that he be given 7 years. The short sentence - to be served in Australia - was imposed after Hicks promised not to sue the U.S. and not to talk to the media for 12 months. The Post discusses the sentence here and some additional questions here and Reuters does so here.

3. The military lawyer representing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri told the Commission, "The detainee states that he was tortured into confession and once he made a confession his captors were happy and they stopped torturing him. Also, the detainee states that he made up stories during the torture in order to get it to stop."

4. Military defense lawyers and leading human rights groups argue the Commissions are illegal. Jennifer Daskal, advocacy director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch stated "The antics at the Hicks hearing underline the illegitimacy of the Guantanamo tribunals. The commission can’t even establish basic rules for lawyers representing the defendant." Amnesty International issued a report from the Commission proceedings and released video statements of Commission defense lawyers decrying the illegality of the proceedings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This all seems very strange. An Australian was tried by a US Military Tribunal? Was he considered an enemy combatant? A prisoner of war? And should POW's get tried before a tribunal?

How legitimate are confessions from individuals who may have been tortured? It's reasonable to argue that someone who is being tortured would say anything. Still, is there a better way to get information from suspected terrorists? Maybe if we ask them really nicely????