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Obama, day 1: Intervention at Gitmo

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Only hours into his presidency, Obama moves to begin untangling the Gitmo debacle.
clipped from www.dailykos.com
President Obama requested a 120 day suspension in the military commissions trial pending this week.

The instruction came in a motion filed with a military court in the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for “a continuance of the proceedings” until May 20 so that “the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically.” […]

“We welcome our new commander-in-chief and this first step towards restoring the rule of law,” said Army Maj. Jon Jackson, a military defense attorney […]
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BarackMichelleWalk_Inauguration
Image by dalesun via Flickr

This preliminary step would delay trials 120 days to give the Obama administration time to plan the next step. Judges are not obliged to grant the motion, but should rule quickly on it.

According to Kos, the ACLU is calling for “the withdrawal of charges and an end to the military commissions process, with cases that warrant prosecution proceeding in regular federal criminal courts.”

I am glad for this quick start.  Decisive action is an important step toward regaining an America that walks its talk: that all “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”


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Gitmo trials rigged; JAG officers want out

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Former chief prosecutor says fair trials “not possible”

[Update, 2/27/08: “The Department of Defense announced today that General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II is returning to private life next month.”]

The Nation writes that the Bush appointee in charge of the entire military tribunal process—to whom its judges, prosecutors, and defenders report—has sent word that “not guilty” is not an option. Follow the link for more details; here’s a summary:

Col. Morris DavisAccording to Col. Morris Davis (right), former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees in an attempt to foreclose the possibility of acquittal.

Colonel Davis … [told] the Washington Post that he had been pressured by politically appointed senior defense officials to pursue cases deemed “sexy” and of “high-interest” … in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Davis, once a staunch defender of the commissions process, elaborated … “I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system … I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively.”

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes–the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

February 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

UN Rapporteur: Not prosecuting torturers is illegal

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From an interview with the Austrian newspaper Der Standard:

clipped from thinkprogress.org

UN Rapporteur On Torture: Obama’s Pledge Not To Pursue Torture Prosecutions Of CIA Agents Is Not Legal

un_nowak.jpg[T]he UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, explained that Obama’s grant of immunity is likely a violation of international law.

As a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, the U.S. is obligated to investigate and prosecute U.S. citizens that are believed to have engaged in torture:

STANDARD: CIA torturers are according to U.S. President Obama not to be prosecuted. Is that decision supportable?

NOWAK: Absolutely not. The United States has, like all other Contracting Parties to the UN Convention Against Torture, committed itself to investigate instances of torture and to prosecute all cases in which credible evidence of torture is found.[…]

[T]he convention states that an “order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”[…] it provides unequivocally that states … are to prosecute any incidents [of torture] […]

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If we hope to bring the USA into a relationship with other nations based on mutual respect of international law, how can we flaunt it ourselves?  If we hope to see a world without torture, how can we sweep our own sins under the rug?

Time to face the music, Mr. President.  Pursuing good vibrations internally does not justify the excusing of criminal acts or further flaunting of international and American law.

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U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture: US “has a clear obligation” to prosecute Bush, Rumsfeld

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Apparently, international law (which is, in this case, US law as well) is pretty clear.
clipped from thinkprogress.org
In remarks that aired on German television last night, Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, urged the U.S. to pursue former President George W. Bush and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld on charges that they authorized torture and other harsh interrogation techniques:

bushrummyweb.jpg

Rumsfeld, Bush

“Judicially speaking, the United States has a clear obligation” to bring proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld. […] He noted Washington had ratified the UN convention on torture which required “all means, particularly penal law” to be used to bring proceedings against those violating it. […]

Indeed, a bipartisan Senate report released last month found that Rumsfeld “bore major responsibility” for abuses committed at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other military detention centers […]

[L]ast week, a Bush administration official overseeing Gitmo trials said Rumsfeld approved the torture of one particular detainee.

Bush himself said last year that […] he personally authorized waterboarding Kalid Sheik Muhammad […]

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I wonder how the USA could demand compliance by any nation to any treaty obligation if it doesn’t fulfill its own solemn obligations in this case.

If we can look away when torture suits the leaders of the moment, can’t everyone? If we can find lawyers who’ll write opinions excusing our leaders when they feel torture appropriate, can’t everyone?

Robert Mugabe will see himself and the USA as birds of a feather.


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Exonerated but helpless: 4 years at Guantanamo Bay

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I post dozens of newsbits at Clipmarks. This one brought a comment that I wanted you to see. First, the clip:

clipped from www.democracynow.org
Newly-revealed documents show the U.S. held a German prisoner at Guantanamo Bay despite privately acknowledging his innocence just months after his capture. Murat Kurnaz was kidnapped and handed over to U.S. forces in Pakistan in December 2001. Four weeks later he became one of the first prisoners to arrive at Guantanamo—where he would spend the next four years. Declassified documents show U.S. and German intelligence officials concluded he had no links to terrorism as early as September 2002. A newly-formed military tribunal finally took up his case in 2004. But the panel ignored the intelligence assessments and twice ordered his ongoing imprisonment. During this time Kurnaz says he suffered severe torture. He says he was beaten, given electric shocks, submerged in water, starved, and chained to a ceiling for days. Kurnaz says he saw several people die and often thought he would die himself. He was finally released in August 2006—nearly five years after his capture.

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Gitmoljsdesign just killed me with this comment:

What gets me is those people who are willing to turn a blind eye. It’s the only way, it’s for the greater good, we’re just protecting ourselves. The ends justify the means.

We will ALL have to account for this. One day our children will come to us and ask “why did this happen? How could we have done these things? How could you allow it to happen?”

What explanation could we ever give them that would justify it. How would we explain away our own responsibility for why we let it happen and let it continue?

Ah, that’s the awful truth about governments: They do it because we let them do it.

Raise your voice, won’t you?


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Written by Monte

December 6, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Iraq, News, Terrorism