In a recent article, “On Guantánamo, Lawmakers Reveal They Are Still Dick Cheney’s Pawns,” I spelled out my despair and disgust at lawmakers from both parties (their names can be found here, here and here), who, since May, have voted for legislation severely curtailing President Obama’s ability to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba by his self-imposed deadline of January 22, 2010, and who, as a result, have sent just one resounding message to the American people and the wider world: the ghost of Dick Cheney still stalks the corridors of power.
October 05, 2009
New developments in the case of young Gitmo prisoner Mohammed Jawad are once again making headlines. His military lawyers say that Jawad had been tortured throughout his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay and they want those responsible to be held accountable. Their efforts, however, seem to be overshadowed by the fact that the Department of Defense has repeatedly ignored requests for a war crimes investigation into his treatment at the prison. RT’s Dina Gusovsky speaks to one of Jawad’s lawyers, Eric Montalvo.
Long-time readers of my work will know that I championed the cause of Mohamed Jawad, the Afghan prisoner released from Guantánamo on August 24, for nearly two years, from the moment that he was, ludicrously, put forward for a trial by Military Commission in October 2007. Jawad was charged with throwing a grenade that wounded two US soldiers and an Afghan translator in a marketplace in Kabul in December 2002, even though it was clear from his testimony alone that he was a teenager at the time of the attack, that he had been duped into joining an insurgent group, that he was drugged at the time of the attack, and that a confession had been coerced out of him while in Afghan custody. His case was also, at the time, the most obvious example of how the Bush administration, in its “War on Terror,” had warped existing war crimes legislation, and was attempting to claim that anyone who opposed US forces in a wartime situation was engaged not in legitimate warfare, but in a criminal enterprise.
On Thursday, as I reported in a separate article, “As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat,” District Court Judge Ellen Segan Huvelle granted the habeas corpus petition of Mohamed Jawad, one of Guantánamo’s youngest prisoners, seized when he was just a teenager. That article provides detailed background on the shocking story of Jawad’s mistreatment and the refusal of both the Bush and Obama administrations to concede that there was — and is — no viable case against Jawad, but in this article I am reproducing highlights from a habeas hearing on July 16 (PDF), in which Judge Huvelle subjected Justice Department lawyers to one of the most sustained outpourings of derision in the whole sorry history of the Bush administration’s woefully inept detention policies in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. For some reason known only to itself, the Obama administration seems hell-bent on defending its predecessor’s policies in federal courts, even though all that awaits it, in the majority of cases, is humiliation, embarrassment and worldwide scorn.
The hearing began as follows: Continue reading
On Thursday, in a long-anticipated ruling (PDF), Judge Ellen Segan Huvelle granted the habeas corpus petition of Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan teenager seized after a grenade attack on a jeep containing two US soldiers and an Afghan translator in December 2002, and ordered the government to transfer him to the custody of the Afghan authorities, who have already stated that he will be released on arrival.
Even if the government accepts Judge Huvelle’s ruling, Jawad will not be released immediately, because, under the terms of legislation recently forced on the government by Congress, the administration will have to provide lawmakers with “an assessment of any risk to the national security” posed by Jawad before he can be freed, which, it said, would take 22 days.
On Wednesday, I reported how Retired Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, the former Judge Advocate General of the US Navy from 1997 to 2000, had delivered compelling testimony to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on “legal issues regarding military commissions and the trial of detainees for violations of the law of war,” explaining why the only valid forum for trials of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay is the US federal court system.
The lucidity and directness of Hutson’s testimony was in marked contrast to the amendments to the existing Military Commission system — and terrifying asides about the use of “preventive detention” — that were proposed by Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department’s General Counsel, and David Kris, the Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, in response to legislation already prepared by the Committee, which, it seems, will be presented to the Senate in the imminent future, even though it still allows (subject to certain restrictions) the use of information — I hesitate to use the word “evidence” — obtained through coercion, and other information that is nothing more than hearsay.
American Civil Liberties Union
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK – Former detainees have alleged they were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with dogs at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, according to a new BBC report based on interviews with former detainees held at Bagram between 2002 and 2006. Hundreds of detainees are still being held in U.S. custody at the Bagram prison without charge or trial.
“When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project. “Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in U.S. custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government. We must learn the truth about what went wrong, hold the proper people accountable and make sure these failed policies are not continued or repeated.”
In April, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at Bagram, including the number of people currently detained, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”
“The U.S. government’s detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The American people have a right to know what’s happening at Bagram and whether prisoners have been tortured there.”
In a related case, the ACLU is representing former Bagram prisoner Mohammed Jawad in a habeas corpus challenge to his indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay. The Afghan government recently sent a letter to the U.S. government suggesting Jawad was as young as 12 when he was captured in Afghanistan and taken to Bagram, where he was tortured. Despite the fact that the primary evidence against Jawad was thrown out in his military commission case at Guantánamo because it was derived through torture, the U.S. government continues to rely on such evidence – including evidence obtained during interrogations at Bagram – in Jawad’s current habeas case to justify holding him indefinitely.
The ACLU’s FOIA request, including a complete list of documents being requested, is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/39441lgl20090423.html
More about Jawad’s case is online at: www.aclu.org/jawad
In all the recent hysteria about the supposed dangers posed by the remaining 240 prisoners at Guantánamo, it has been easy to forget that sensible appraisals of the number of individuals with any meaningful connection to terrorism have long indicated that no more than a few dozen of those still held should be regarded as any kind of significant threat, and that therefore the prison still holds over 200 prisoners who, at best, were low-level Taliban soldiers with a strong dislike of US foreign policy, and, at worst, should never have been held at all.
To listen to Dick Cheney, or to some serving politicians who are prone to similar hyperbole, you would think that every one of the remaining 240 prisoners is just itching to return to the fictional battlefield conjured up in last week’s conveniently leaked Pentagon report about recidivism rates (PDF), which, while published uncritically by the New York Times, has been comprehensively trashed by reporters for the New American, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Firedoglake and many other media outlets.