ACLU Resumes Vigilant Watch As Unconstitutional Guantánamo Hearings Continue This Week

April 28, 2008 12:00 am

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Military Commission Hearings Continue To Jeopardize Credibility Of U.S. Justice System

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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union will be at Guantánamo Bay this week observing the military commission hearings of Yemeni national Salim Ahmed Hamdan. The ACLU has been present as an independent observer at each and every commission hearing and continues to see no indication that the proceedings are fair, impartial or in accordance with constitutional or universal human rights principles.

“The United States’ historic reputation as a nation committed to the rule of law and the principle of due process continues to be thrown into question as a result of the government’s insistence on continuing to carry out these military commission hearings,” said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project who will be present for the hearings, which begin today and are expected to continue Tuesday. “It is imperative that these proceedings be exposed as being at odds with both the U.S. Constitution and international law. It is not just the detainees being prosecuted that are on trial during these hearings, but also the U.S. government and the American system of justice.”

things, the admission of coerced evidence that may have been obtained through torture. CIA Director Michael Hayden has admitted that at least one of the men who will be tried in this system, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was waterboarded by CIA agents during interrogations.

The ACLU is one of four organizations that have been granted status as human rights observers at the military commission proceedings. In addition to monitoring the proceedings, the ACLU has repeatedly called on Congress and the Bush administration to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Among the motions to be argued during the next two days is one that alleges that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann — legal advisor to the White House official overseeing the military commission proceedings — exerted “unlawful command influence” over both the prosecution and defense.

Among those expected to testify on Hamdan’s behalf this week is the former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis, who quit in October after complaining that undue political pressure was influencing the legal process.

Hamdan, alleged to have served as a personal driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, but he maintains that he had no involvement with any terrorism-related activity. In June 2007, military judges threw out the government’s charges against both Hamdan and a second Guantánamo prisoner, Canadian national Omar Ahmed Khadr, because the judges found the commission lacked the authority to prosecute them. According to the judge in each case, neither Hamdan nor Khadr had been previously designated an “unlawful enemy combatant” as required under the Military Commissions Act signed into law by President Bush in October 2006. After the government appealed, a newly established U.S. Court of Military Commission Review — a panel of three military officers appointed by the Pentagon — reinstated the charges.

Hamdan’s lawyers allege he has been subjected to abusive interrogation techniques, including beatings and sexual humiliation, and that the military commission system permits evidence obtained by inhumane techniques. Such evidence would not be admissible in civilian courts or courts martial.

In May 2007, the ACLU endorsed legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would close the Guantánamo facility and end the practice of indefinite detention. It would also provide a push for the government to finally charge the detainees – some of whom have been held without charge for a long as six years – it believes are guilty of crimes against the United States.

Wizner will post a series of blogs containing his comments and observations from the hearings beginning tomorrow on the ACLU’s diary on Daily Kos, which can be found at:

His posts can also be found on the ACLU’s blog at:

Additional information about the ACLU’s involvement surrounding the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay can be found online at:

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