Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Still Crazy After All These Years

As we enter the third year of President Obama's tenure, Guantanamo Bay is still open and doing business. Nearly 150 "detainees" remain there. At various sites around the world the US is "detaining" many more people for acts they stand accused of but have never been tried for, or who may not have committed any kind of crime but are considered dangerous for what they might do in the future.

Two law professors, Amos N. Guiora and Laurie R. Blank, make a sober assessment of the American ideals of justice and fairness in light of these facts and find that our nation is lacking in both.

Two successive administrations have been incapable of answering what should be the most basic questions: if, how and where to try terrorists. In the meantime, post-9/11 detainees languish in indefinite detention. The result is a fundamental and overwhelming violation of the rights of individuals who are no more than suspects, in either past or (more problematic) future acts.

The Obama administration now intends to issue an executive order establishing indefinite detention without trial for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. This decision will formalize this violation of basic rights. Denying individual accountability will now be official U.S. policy and law.

The claim that granting prisoners the right to file petitions for habeas corpus and receive regular reviews is sufficient is disingenuous. At best, that only addresses detention status. It does not facilitate resolution of individual accountability, the principle that requires that an individual have the opportunity for adjudication of his or her guilt or innocence. It is wrong morally, not to mention legally.

The first step, therefore, is to determine that individuals detained post 9/11 deserve their day in court, just like domestic criminals and perpetrators of war crimes. The next step is to implement a mechanism that can do so fairly and effectively. Speedy resolution is, by now, wishful thinking at best.

What is even more shameful is something the authors do not directly address: that indefinite detention is intended to apply even if a detainee is tried and found innocent. If the government cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they get a do-over by alleging (not proving) that the defendant is too dangerous to the security of these United States to be released, presumably ever.

Andy Worthington, one of the most passionate and tenacious of those determined to point out the hypocrisy and criminal behavior of the US with respect to detainees, has supplied a heartbreaking example of what this indefinite detention actually means to the individual faced with spending the rest of his or her life in hell:

A letter from Guantánamo, by Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

To Attorney David Remes who dedicated his efforts to work on my dead case. The case that has been buried by its makers under the wreckage of freedom, justice, and the malicious and cursed politics.

Testimony and Consolation

I offer my dead corpse to the coming Yemeni delegation.

They agreed on the torture and agonies that I went through all those years.

They knew that I am innocent and at the same time ill and that I left my country to seek treatment.

This is also a message to the Yemeni people who bear the responsibility of my death in front of God and the responsibility of all of the other Yemenis inside this prison. This prison is a piece of hell that kills everything, the spirit, the body and kicks away all the symptoms of health from them.

A Testimony of Death

A testimony against injustice and against the propagandists of freedom, justice and equality.

Adnan Farhan Abdulatif while in the throes of death.

How's that for an indictment before an international tribunal?

[Note: a special thank you to Moonbootica for directing me to Andy Worthington's post this past weekend.]

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