Tag Archives: gitmo detainees

My new hero

I don’t say this lightly.  I say this with a joyful heart and tears in my eyes.  Seriously.  This isn’t hyperbole.

Judge Ricardo Urbina, Federal District Court

Judge Ricardo Urbina, Federal District Court

This man you see, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, a Clinton appointee, is my new hero.  He has ordered that a group of 17 Guantanamo detainees be produced before him for release.  This is the first ruling of this kind in nearly seven years of legal wrangling over the rights of detainess at Gitmo. 

All of these men, these detainees, are members of the Uighur Muslim minority from China and literally cannot return to China because they fear for their lives.  They were in Afghanistan as political refugees and were swept into Afghan detention camps in 2001 in error.  There is no other country which will accept them for fear of retribution from China, so they will be released to the care of other Uighur Muslims living in the US.

This case was brought before Judge Urbina under the ruling by the Supreme Court which restored the detainees habeas corpus rights and it comes after the government has admitted that it has no evidence that these men are a threat to the United States.  Judge Urbina challenged the government’s assertions that he has no right to free these detainees and warned against any further delay tactics.  He also made clear that no other agencies (immigration, for instance) should try and arrest the men upon their release.

I am thankful for Judge Urbina’s courage and wisdom and I fervently hope that other Judges follow his lead in future habeas corpus cases brought on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees.  Don’t go crazy:  there are certainly a few at Gitmo who may need to be brought to further justice.  But there are many who should be freed or, at the least, released to their home countries.  Judge Urbina has opened the door to this process and, for this, he is my new hero.

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Omar Khadr to Mohamed Jawad

Remember Omar Khadr?  He’s the Canadian citizen held at Guantanamo Bay, captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 after allegedly throwing a grenade at American troops.  Only by all accounts, he’s innocent.  He has never been offered the protections of the international agreements set up for child soldiers.

Yesterday brought us some major news in the case of another child soldier, Mahamed Jawad.  Jawad was captured in Afghanistan when he was 16 or 17 for allegedly throwing a grenade and wounding two US soldiers and an Afghani interpreter.  On September 24, the prosecutor assigned to Jawad’s case, Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld resigned from the case.  An article in the Washington Post quotes from Lt Col Vandeveld’s filing with the military court:

My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery.  I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain ‘procedure’ for affording defense counsel discovery.

As in Khadr’s case, there are significant questions surrounding Jawad’s guilt and, as mentioned, the US did not take any steps to protect Jawad as a child soldier.  Vandeveld was trying to ensure that the questions in Jawad’s case, including whether or not Jawad was drugged before the attack and the alleged confession of two other Afghanis, were investigated.  He was also trying to ensure that Jawad was offered rehabilitation, as guaranteed under international agreements on the treatment of child soldiers.

Both of these young men have been at Guantanamo Bay for startling long times:  Khadr for 7 years and Jawad for 5.  Both have been held without legitimate trials.  For histories and updates on both these cases, visit Andy Worthington’s outstanding work.  

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Remember that neo-fascism thing?

Go check out these two pieces:

From the AP:  Lawyer:  Gitmo interrogators told to trash notes

From Alternet.org:  Pentagon Manual:  OK to Destroy Gitmo Interrogation Notes

The first is AP’s factual reporting of the situation.  The second is Alternet’s discussion of the implications, including some excerpts of reporting on the same story from CanWest News Service. 

Essentially, there was a Pentagon directive that interrogators could (should?) destory their handwritten notes taken during interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  Later, sanatized typed reports were created of said interrogations.  The defense attorney for Omad Khadr, currently on trial in a case already making news for the replacement of the trail attorney, says that this practice prevents him from challenging any alleged confessions and he will use this to request dismissal of the charges against his client.

This all ties up neatly in a bow with my neo-fascism post below with the pending Supreme Court case regarding the denial of habeas corpus under the Military Commissions Act.

I’m not going to argue whether or not Khadr threw the grenade that killed the American soldier he is accused of killing, when he was 15 years old in Afghanistan, even though the Pentagon isn’t quite sure.  I’m not going to argue whether or not he should have been deported, at age 15, against the normal standards of international extradition, to Gitmo.  What I will argue is that we are America, and whether or not he is guilty of the crime for which he is accused, he should have had his rights upheld.  He should have had the right to not be tortured.  He should have had the right to a fair and just and timely trial, not waiting six years to face the kind of backward justice of which all Americans should be ashamed and alarmed.

Khadr is Canadian.  Canadian.  That’s pretty close to home, don’t you think?  He is now 21 years old.  No one can prove that he did what we say he did and yet we’ve held him for six years trying.  Sure, he was fighting for the the other side.  But this is war, folks, that’s what happens.  Are we going to arrest everyone fighting for the other side? 

The thing we all need to realize is that the Military Commissions act allows the President to declare anyone an enemy combatant:  anyone.  That’s you, that’s me, that’s my Mom, that’s your kids, that’s your neighbors, your children’s teacher, the nice lady who works at the local grocery.  And once one is declared an enemy combatant, the flood gates open and anyone can be treated just like we have treated Khadr.  That’s why Gitmo exists.  And if John McCain, who supports this Act, is elected, this will not change.  Do your homework and use your vote.      

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