FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Guantánamo Trials

Imagine being seized in Afghanistan or Pakistan, where you were, perhaps, a completely innocent man, sold for a bounty, or a Muslim soldier, fighting other Muslims in a civil war whose roots lay in the resistance to the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, which was partly funded by the United States.

Then imagine that, both during and after being treated with appalling brutality by US forces, you are given no opportunity to establish whether you are an innocent man seized by mistake, a soldier, or the victim of bounty hunters, and you are, instead, flown halfway around the world to an experimental offshore prison, where you are interrogated about your connections to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

At no point are you offered the protection of the Geneva Conventions (to which your captors are a signatory), which were designed to prevent the “humiliating and degrading treatment” of prisoners seized during wartime, and also to prevent their interrogation (prisoners may be questioned, but any form of “physical or mental coercion” is prohibited). Moreover, if you struggle to answer the questions put to you — perhaps because you know nothing about al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden — you are not only interrogated relentlessly, you are also subjected to an array of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which contravene the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which your captors are also a signatory.

Now imagine that, after six and a half years of this imprisonment — in which, unlike convicted criminals on the US mainland, you have never been charged or tried, and have not been allowed a single visit from your loved ones — the highest court in the United States rules, in Boumediene v. Bush, that you have habeas corpus rights; in other words, the right to know why you are being held. And finally, imagine that, in response to this ruling, when the judges responsible for establishing the reviews have ordered the cases to be addressed “as expeditiously as possible,” and have set a deadline for the government to comply, your captors turn around and say that, after holding you for up to 2,444 days in Guantánamo, they need more time to prepare a case against you.

You would, I think, be appalled, and would conclude that the government was specifically dragging its heels for political purposes, hoping to avoid humiliation ahead of the Presidential election, and, in particular, hoping to prevent a replay of the verdict in Parhat v. Gates, the only case reviewed since the Supreme Court made its ruling in June, in which the judges — two Conservatives and a Liberal, no less — ruled that the designation of Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Muslim, as an “enemy combatant” was “invalid,” and lambasted the quality of the government’s evidence as being akin to a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

And in this opinion you would, I think, be correct. When the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners were entitled to “a prompt habeas corpus hearing,” and added that, “[w]hile some delay in fashioning new procedures is unavoidable, the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody,” it’s certain that they did not intend, over three months down the line, for the government still to be dragging its heels. In the immediate wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, meetings were scheduled to appoint judges to review the 250 cases and to set dates for the government and the prisoners’ defense lawyers to file their evidence. On July 11, the District Court dealing with the reviews “ordered the government to file factual returns at a rate of fifty per month, with the first fifty due by August 29, 2008.”

“Just before midnight” on August 29, however, with only 22 returns filed, the government filed an “instant motion” begging for more time, pleading that it “simply did not appreciate the full extent of the challenges posed by the extensive need for classified information in these cases when [it] proposed to complete the first set of factual returns by the end of August,” and asking for “partial and temporary relief” from the order of July 11. Specifically, as Judge Hogan noted in the opinion of September 19 (PDF) from which this article draws extensively, the government asked for an extension of 30 days. High-ranking figures — the Acting General Counsel for the Department of Defense, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, and the Director of the CIA — explained “the substantial resources and efforts the government has devoted to preparing factual returns and the risk of harm to the national security involved in releasing classified information to persons outside the Executive Branch.”

After noting that delaying the schedule by a month was neither “partial” not “temporary” relief, Judge Hogan agreed to grant the government’s motion. He stated that, after reviewing the declarations, “the Court is satisfied that the government is not dragging its feet in an attempt to delay these matters beyond what is necessary to protect the national security concerns associated with releasing classified information. These cases are not run of the mill; they involve significant amounts of sensitive, classified information concerning individuals whom the government alleges were part of or supporting the Taliban or al-Qaeda or other organizations against which the United States is engaged in armed conflict.”

However, Judge Hogan also noted that “the Court grants the government’s motion reluctantly,” explaining that “it is disappointed in the government’s failure to meet the schedule the Court adopted based in part on the government’s assurances.” Citing statements in which the government claimed that it had “attempt[ed] to meet its goal” and that it would “continue to strive to meet the 50-per-month requirement,” Judge Hogan added, pointedly, that the Court was “not merely setting a ‘goal’ for which the government is to ‘strive,’” but was, rather, “ordering the government to produce at least fifty factual returns by month’s end, followed by at least another fifty more each month thereafter until production is complete.”

In conclusion, while Judge Hogan recognized, as the government explained, that, since the Supreme Court ruling, its “[a]ttorneys and others from multiple agencies have worked long and hard, nights and weekends,” he reminded the executive that “the government has detained many of these petitioners for more than six years, and the time has come to provide them with the opportunity to fully test the legality of such detention in a prompt, meaningful manner.”

He added, with just a hint of irritation, that the decision to grant the prisoners the right “to fully test the legality of their detention through habeas corpus challenges” was “no bolt out of the blue,” as the government contended, because the Supreme Court had ruled, four years before (in Rasul v. Bush), that they had this right. This was, it seems, a barbed comment on the legislation passed by the government in the wake of Rasul (the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act), which was partly overturned — and ruled unconstitutional — in Boumediene.

The Court’s decision will be small comfort to the prisoners languishing in Guantánamo while the government does all in its power to avoid exposing its reasons — or lack of reasons — for holding them, but it shows, at least, that the judges responsible for reviewing their cases are paying attention.

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

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

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
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
David Yearsley
Morricone: Maestro of Music and Image
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
Graham Peebles
Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?
Zhivko Illeieff
Can We Escape Our Addiction to Social Media?
Clark T. Scott
The Democrat’s Normal Keeps Their (Supposed) Enemies Closer and Closer
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
In 2020 Elections: Will Real-Life “Fighting Dems” Prove Irresistible?
David Swanson
Mommy, Where Do Peace Activists Come From?
Christopher Brauchli
Trump the Orator
Gary Leupp
Columbus and the Beginning of the American Way of Life: A Message to Indoctrinate Our Children
John Stanton
Donald J. Trump, Stone Cold Racist
Nicky Reid
The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)
Stephen Cooper
A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)
Hugh Iglarsh
COVID-19’s Coming to Town
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail