by Timothy V. Gatto and Finian Cunningham
Featured Writers Dandelion Salad
June 12, 2011
This third interview with Finian Cunningham, an Irish journalist now living in Manama, Bahrain, is probably the most telling yet. The arrest of 47 medical personnel and the subsequent torture after their arrest for crimes against the government in Bahrain belies this notion expressed to President Barack Obama that “everything is returning to normal” in Bahrain. With the presence of the US 5th Fleet in that country, our government surely knows that the massive reprisals by the monarchy in Bahrain are still continuing, right up to the present day.
At the weekend, six of the remaining 13 Uighurs in Guantánamo — Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province — were released to resume new lives in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau (population: 20,000). I have written at length about the plight of Guantánamo’s Uighurs, innocent men caught up in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, who were mostly seized and sold to US forces by Pakistani villagers after fleeing a settlement in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains where they had been living a Spartan live for several months, free from Chinese oppression. Some were hoping to make their way to Turkey, to find work, but had found their way hard, and had been advised to seek out the settlement; others nursed futile dreams of rising up against the Chinese government, and, while working to make the settlement habitable, occasionally shot a few rounds on their only weapon, an aged Kalashnikov.
I have also written about how the US authorities knew, almost immediately, that these men had no connection to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but how, nevertheless, they flew them to Guantánamo, allowed Chinese interrogators to visit them, and tried, in their tribunals at Guantánamo, to make out that they were connected to a Uighur separatist group, which, obligingly had been designated by the Bush administration as a terrorist group to secure leverage with the Chinese government in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
WASHINGTON – President Obama today signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes significant changes to the Guantánamo military commissions. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Obama administration to abandon the fatally flawed military commissions system and, where evidence of terrorism crimes exists, try the Guantánamo detainees in federal courts.
The NDAA makes improvements to the military commissions but fails to bring those tribunals in line with the U.S. Constitution and international law under the Geneva Conventions. It continues to apply the military commissions to a much broader group of individuals than should be tried before them under the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and does not prohibit military commission trials of children. The new law does, however, for the first time require experienced capital defense attorneys in death penalty cases, authorize more resources for defense counsel, impose new limitations on the use of hearsay and coerced testimony and afford greater access to witnesses and evidence for defendants.