Bush Administration Continues To Ram Through Military Commissions Despite Obama's Pledge To Dismantle Guantánamo

November 19, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – In a continued effort to press ahead with the Guantánamo military commissions at warp speed before the Obama administration can implement its plans to dismantle them, military prosecutors have filed new charges against detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani, who is accused of having plotted with the hijackers in the September 11 attacks. The administration dropped charges against al-Qahtani in May amidst revelations that he had been tortured and subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that could make it impossible to prosecute him with admissible evidence.

President-elect Obama has rejected the military commissions and pledged to close down Guantánamo. A New York Times article today reported that Pentagon official Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann is planning to brief President-elect Obama’s transition team on the military commission process going forward.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

“The haphazard nature of the Bush administration’s case against al-Qahtani – first charging him, then dropping the charges, then charging him again – is emblematic of an ad hoc and unstable system. The Bush administration has backed itself into a corner by abusing its detainees and sabotaging its own cases against them. If, as the administration claims, it has reliable evidence against al-Qahtani – or any other detainees, for that matter – it should prosecute him in the federal civilian or military court system where real justice can be served and the results can be trusted. Sham trials, torture and illegal imprisonment are not worthy of our democracy.

“The last thing the Bush administration should be doing is ramming through the Guantánamo cases and pursuing new ones in the 11th hour of its administration. It can only be interpreted as a direct effort to make it as difficult as possible for President-elect Obama to shut down the shameful Guantánamo system once he takes office. This is another example of the political motivation behind these unfair and unconstitutional commissions.

“We trust that President-elect Obama will seek the counsel of a wide range of experts when determining how to dismantle the Guantánamo debacle, and not just listen to General Hartmann, who has been widely discredited for exerting political influence over these prosecutions. The president-elect’s team should also meet with the military and civilian defense teams who are fighting to expose the injustice of these proceedings through the John Adams Project. If President-elect Obama receives a full assessment of the deep flaws in this system, we are sure he will immediately follow through on his pledge to close Guantánamo and its sham military commissions.”

The ACLU, in partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers through the John Adams Project, has retained over 25 civilian lawyers and legal professionals to assist with representation of several Guantánamo detainees and partner with the under-resourced military defense counsel.

More information on the John Adams Project is available at: www.aclu.org/johnadams

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