Tag Archives: Guantanamo

Torture, Torture, Is UK Story In Afghanistan

Future historians undoubtedly will be confused, if not horrified, at the use of torture by supposedly democratic societies during the hectic days of over running the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Just alone in the United Kingdom there are an estimated 500,000 documents which deal, in one way or another, with torture issues. Recently released classified documents in the UK reveal that M15 interrogators employed torture against citizens of their country before shipping them off to Guantanamo where they could disappear into the dungeons of American refusal to acknowledge what was going on. One document informs M15 interrogators they must decide if the object of their mission is “detention” or “killing” of the person they are questioning!! Another document reveals the Blair government blocked efforts of their own Foreign Office which attempted to provide consular support to a UK citizen and thus the individual went off to Guantanamo.

Lawyers for detained UK citizens are demanding access to documents that might prove their client was tortured or that he was innocent. So far, this effort has not been completely successful. This episode only dramatically shows why President Obama missed an opportunity in January, 2009 to appoint a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with American torture in a manner that looked to the future.

GOP Tries To Halt Gitmo Prisoner Transfer

There is no question that Republican members of Congress stand in the fore in the fight to protect America against violence in jails. Currently, as any American knows, our jails are institutions of peace in which any prisoner would feel safe and secure in his spacious cell. Congressional Republicans failed to pass legislation that would allow transfer of FOREIGN TERRORISTS to the quiet and peaceful jails of America. Just imagine, allowing al-Qaeda terrorists into jails that presently house innocent men like members of the Aryan Brotherhood or drug gangs. Frankly, if Republicans won and Guantanamo prisoners were not allowed to be transfered the only winners would be Guantanamo prisoners. Just imagine sending Muslims into jails filled with angry Catholic Mexican prisoners or the infamous Aryan Brotherhood. Who do you think would be at risk — the Muslim terrorists or the other prisoners?

This is among the silliest arguments in America. A Muslim “terrorist” in an American jail is at risk, not the American prisoners.

Young Gitmo Prisoner Back In Afghanistan

The case of Mohammed Jawad is either typical or atypical of those who are currently imprisoned in Guantanamo prison. Jawad “confessed” after being seized and admitted throwing a grenade into a jeep. However, at his trial he denied his confession claiming he was told either confess or have your family in Afghanistan killed. A military judge threw out the confession causing the entire case against the youth to collapse. US military authorities wanted to continue “investigating” the crime, but US District Judge Ellen Huvelle ordered his release.

The argument about Jawad includes his age and the circumstances of what happened that day in Afghanistan. He is now back in Afghanistan and has been released to members of his family. This episode raises more questions than provides answers. Is it unrealistic to believe a prisoner in Afghanistan was threatened with death to his family? Is is unreasonable for individuals to be seized in the heat of battle? Perhaps, the clearest issue that must be resolved is the need for law and order in our courts based on constitutional principles, not those emanating from fear and hate.

Does Anyone Know What’s Going On In CIA?

The tangled mess created by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in the aftermath of 9/11 lives on with confusion regarding relations between prisoners and CIA interrogators. The Justice Department is now investigating reports that detainees were improperly given photos of CIA agents and private contractors. Justice Department officials are trying to determine if military lawyers assigned to defend detainees divulged classified information or compromised CIA officers.

A major issue defense lawyers for the detainees quickly came across was the abuse and torture of their clients so it may have been natural to investigate the names of those who violated procedures during interrogations. It is quite clear at the infamous “black sites” torture was the norm and if a client was tortured it was the responsibility of his lawyer to uncover evidence of physical and mental abuse.

There is no quick resolution of a problem that began eight years ago.

Can Defendants Be Forced To Testify?

The madness of Guantanamo prisoners continues with the latest episode in which some defendants argued they had a right to have someone speak for them and when denied, they refused to attend the session. The Prosecutor asked the judge to allow Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to have five minutes to speak, but the request was denied. The question whether a defendant can be forced to attend his trial is now up in the air. At times, judges have allowed guards to use force to bring defendants to a trial, in other situations, they have been allowed to boycott the session.

The current system is a legal and moral mess. Step one in bringing about change is to allow defendants to participate in a regular court session. The United States of America has more people in jail than any nation in the world. Surely, we can allow a few more trials without causing a collapse of the judiciary system.

I assume a defendant has a right to keep silent.

Does A Defendant Decide Who Are His Lawyers?

Omar Khadr was a fifteen year old boy who was taken to Afghanistan by his father who supported al-Qaeda. During the American invasion, Omar was captured and charged with allegedly killing an American soldier. He is currently charged with five war crimes by US authorities. Ordinarily, in civilized societies a fifteen year old boy is considered a child soldier, but in the world of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, if you are a Muslim boy, the heck with you. Hundreds of child soldiers in west Africa have been placed in educational programs, but in Bush America Khadr was placed in Guantanamo prison. For over seven years he has been represented by military lawyers who continually squabble with one another. He has requested that Canadian lawyers represent him, but US military authorities will only allow them to be “foreign attorney consultants.”

Canadian lawyers believe Omar has a right to be represented by lawyers in whom he has confidence but that apparently is not the view of America. Now, that President Obama has called for a review of military trials, the trial of Omar Khadr will once again be put off. Of course, he no longer is a child, but what has happened to the fifteen year old who has spent seven years in the company of men the United States terms, “terrorists?”

Guantanamo–American’s Shame

I was recently taken to task by a writer who informed me our Founding Fathers would have been proud of the Bush administration policy toward prisoners because they wanted America to be protected against foreign attack. The writer did not cite any specific “Founding Father” nor did he quote directly anything stated by one of those men two hundred years ago that would have led to the conclusion a literal interpretation of the Constitution would conclude use of torture and denial of trial is the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Naturally, I thought it appropriate to read the Constitution in order to determine if that was their original intent.

Amendment 6

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherin the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Amendment 7
“In suits of common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and in fact, trial by jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of common law.”

Amendment 8

“Excessive bail shall not be required, no excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

I believe the ORIGINAL INTENT OF THE CONSTITUTION is clear– no torture, the right to a fair trial. Somehow, I do not believe Madison or Hamilton or Franklin would have viewed depriving people of sleep, forcing them to endure cold temperatures or waterboarding as fitting in to their ideas concerning proper treatment of prisoners.

Throughout the Revolutionary War, George Washington insisted on following the rules of war as known in the 18th century. There is no record of torturing captured British soldiers on orders of George Washington. Our Founding Fathers were raised with British concepts regarding the rights of man and torture and denial of a jury trial certainly were not part of their concept of the rights of man.

It is time for President Obama to return to the original intent of the Constitution and allow fair and impartial jury trials for the accused.

Danish Government Colluded In Violating POW Rights

In 2002, Col. Frank Lissner, head of Danish troops in Afghanistan, learned that American forces were violating the Geneva Convention and that prisoners he was turning over to them would be sent to Guantanamo rather than being treated according to regulations of the Geneva Convention. He informed the Danish government of his concerns, but nothing was done and men were sent to Cuba. Col. Lissner even received information that some of the prisoners might be innocent, but once in the hands of the Americans, guilt or innocence were the last considerations. This was at the height of Rumsfeld/Cheney belief it was impossible to violate POW rights because they lacked any such protection. A recent documentary which interviewed Danish soldiers who participated in this action expressing their concerns that any prisoner turned over to Americans would be subject to mistreatment.

There is something sad when troops in other armies mistrust the capacity of the United States military to conduct itself according to international rules and regulations. Is this still another legacy of the Bush administration?

Obama On Defensive About Guantanamo

President Obama offered a strong defense of his plans to close Guantanamo prison and initiate military tribunals which faced the problem that many cases could not proceed due to contaminated evidence. He made clear his opposition to the Bush torture and coercion approach to gathering information which Obama believes is too costly in terms of public opinion in the Arab world. “In short, they(torture approaches) did not advance our war and counter terrorism efforts.” The president is being attacked by Cheney and right wing groups which insist that torture has proved effective.

The problem is what to do with prisoners in Guantanamo since Republicans and the right wing media are spreading fear that allow those prisoners in a tight security prison and somehow they will break loose and terrorize communities, rape women, and do God knows what else. As Obama noted; “nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal super-max prisons.” I doubt if that information will temper criticism from right wingers.

Lock Em Up, Throw Away The Key, Says Judge To Obama

Every president reaches a point in his term of office when the Constitution must be upheld regardless of political consequences. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower who was not a fan of integration ordered troops to protect the right of Negro children to attend school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Today, Barack Obama has to decide if his campaign words were simply rhetoric to secure votes or did they reflect his legal training in protecting Constitutional rights. US District Judge John Bates said Congress gave the president authority to hold anyone for as long as he desired if they were considered to be linked to terrorist attacks. “The president has the authority to detain persons that the president determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 1, 2001 and persons who harbored those responsible for those attacks.”

Once upon a time in America the president did not have the authority he determined were guilty of a crime since one was supposedly innocent until proven guilty. But, George Bush believes the president can do whatever he desires as long as he shouts, “9/11.” So far, Barack Obama has come across as “Bush-light” when it comes to issues related to the rights of people “charged with crimes.”

In November, 1943, in the midst of a world war, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said:
“the power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”