Military Commission Proceedings Put Credibility Of U.S. Justice System On The Line

April 9, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union will be at Guantánamo Bay this week to observe the U.S. military commission hearings of Sudanese national Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, Saudi national Ahmed Mohammad al-Darbi and Canadian national Omar Ahmed Khadr. 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 principles.

“The reputation of the United States and its historic commitment to the principles of due process and the rule of law have been and continue to be severely damaged by the affront to justice that are these military commission hearings,” said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “In an effort to continue to expose the ways in which these proceedings fly in the face of both the Constitution and international law, the ACLU will not waver in its commitment to monitor each and every hearing at Guantánamo Bay. Unfortunately, it is the U.S. government and the American system of justice that are on trial as much as the detainees who are being prosecuted.”

The proceedings have been riddled with ethical and legal problems from the very beginning, as they have allowed, among other things, the admission of coerced evidence that may have been obtained through practices condemned throughout the world as 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.

“It has been clear for some time that the objective of these proceedings is anything but granting fair trials,” Dakwar said. “The time has long since come for this unlawful system to be shut down for good and to either prosecute fairly or release the detainees that remain there.”

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.

Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Now 21, he is charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support and espionage. The murder charge in Khadr’s case relates to a 2002 incident in Afghanistan in which Khadr is alleged to have thrown a grenade, killing a U.S. soldier. The other charges are based on his alleged links to, and support for, al-Qaeda. In a signed, nine-page affidavit filed last month, Khadr charges that he was repeatedly threatened with rape as an interrogation technique while held both in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay.

The charges against both al-Darbi, 33, in U.S. custody for close to six years and who is expected to formally enter a plea this week, and al-Qosi, 47, whose lawyers are expected to present arguments regarding a number of different motions filed on his behalf, include conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism based on alleged connections to al-Qaeda. Al-Qosi is alleged to have been a bodyguard and personal driver for Osama bin Laden.

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.

Dakwar will post a series of blogs containing his comments and observations from the hearings beginning today on the ACLU’s diary on Daily Kos, which can be found at:,-Human-Rights-Program

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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