FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Salim Hamdan’s Sentence

In a decision that will shock those watching the conclusion of the first full U.S. war crimes trial since the Nuremberg Trials, the military jury that convicted Salim Hamdan of providing “material support for terrorism” on Wednesday has sentenced him to serve five and a half years in prison. Given that the judge in his case, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, had earlier ruled that he would be given credit for time served since Hamdan was first charged under the Commission system in July 2003, this means that he will be eligible for release in five months’ time.

The verdict will do nothing to convince the many critics of the Military Commission trial system that it is valid — as there remain too many issues with the Commissions’ use of hearsay and coerced evidence, of secret testimony, and of attempts to justify elevating “material support for terrorism” to the level of a war crime, despite no precedent for doing so — but it must surely come as a relief to those who thought that the jury might have been persuaded by prosecutor John Murphy, who argued that Hamdan’s “penalty” should be a sentence of at least 30 years, something “so significant that it forecloses any possibility that he reestablishes his ties with terrorists.”

Instead, the sentence is close to the length of time proposed by Hamdan’s defense lawyer Charles Swift, the former military lawyer who brought down the Commissions’ first incarnation as illegal in the Supreme Court in June 2006. Swift argued that Hamdan should receive a sentence of less than four years because “his cooperation with U.S. intelligence services more than outweighed his culpability as a member of [Osama] bin Laden’s motor pool.”

This is, I believe, an extremely important point, as it was apparent during Hamdan’s two-week trial that he had been exploited by those seeking to prosecute him, who had built a case against him through his own words. At issue was the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, which has been denied to all those deemed “enemy combatants” in the “War on Terror.” While this remains unacceptable — and is intimately connected with the dark heart of the administration’s deliberate policy of shredding the Geneva Conventions to facilitate the illegal interrogation of prisoners (whether coercively or not) — what made it particularly troubling in Hamdan’s case was that, whereas other, non-cooperative prisoners had been released from Guantánamo without ever incriminating themselves, Hamdan was being punished for his cooperation.

While legal challenges to the system will be more muted as a result of this verdict, it is unlikely that Hamdan’s defenders will be persuaded not to pursue their many, valid complaints about a system which, as Charles Swift explained today, remains nothing more than “a made-up tribunal to try anybody we don’t like.”

However, what this sentence also achieves, which was previously unconceivable, is to cap the disturbingly open-ended nature of the administration’s detention policies, in a way that was only previously managed through a plea bargain — that of the Australian David Hicks, who, in the first of the Commission trials following their resuscitation in the fall of 2006 in the Military Commissions Act, received a nine-month sentence to add to the five years and three months he had already spent in U.S. custody.

Until now, the administration has maintained that, if it wishes, it has the right to hold “enemy combatants” without charge or trial until the end of hostilities, which, it has also admitted, might last for generations. A sentence has now superseded that open-ended policy. If one of Osama bin Laden’s drivers gets a sentence of seven years and one month in total (five and half years plus the 19 months of his imprisonment before he was charged) in a system specifically established by the administration to try and convict “terror suspects,” it is surely now inconceivable that those who planned the whole post-9/11 detention policy can maintain that they can still continue to hold him as an “enemy combatant” after his sentence has been served — or, for that matter, that they can continue to hold any of the 130 or so prisoners in Guantánamo who have not been cleared, and who are not scheduled to face a trial by Military Commission, beyond the end of the year.

With this sentence, it appears that the death knell has just been sounded for the whole malign Guantánamo project.

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British historian, and the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press). Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk
He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British journalist, the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press), and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.’ Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk        WORDS THAT STICK ?  

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail