Monday, June 04, 2007

Kangaroo courts at risk in Guantanamo


Bush's policy of military tribunals for detainees in Guantanamo - we would be barbaric to say 'suspects', since most of them don't appear to be suspected of anything specific - has hit a welcome legal blockage. The ruling dismissing charges in Omar Ahmad Khadr's case, which stated that the whole procedure is flawed, came from a US army colonel appointed to oversee one of the tribunals. That means it's serious, or so I'd guess. The "flaw" is that "Congress authorized charges only against detainees who had been determined to be unlawful enemy combatant". However, "the military here has determined only that Khadr was an enemy combatant. Military lawyers said the same flaw would affect every other potential war crimes case here." None of the detainees have been found to be "unlawful" enemy combatants. I expect that Camp Delta (née X-Ray) will be wound up at some point in the distant future, since it is not the main focus of detention policy, despite being the most visible. All evidence to date points to it being an indefinite holding pen for small fry, and people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as a very visible form of intimidation. When the US doesn't kill any senior Al Qaeda leaders that it can find, it claims to detain them in unknown locations apart from Guantanamo. (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for instance, spent only six months in Guantanamo - reportedly - and his location is kept secret, even now that he has confessed to everything from the murder of Thomas Becket to the framing of Martha Stewart.) Of course, one shouldn't underestimate the ability of the Bush administration to organise a reversal. An earlier ruling from a US district court insisting that detainees should be protected by the constitution if there was any doubt as to their 'unlawful' status was thrown out by a three judge panel including one John Roberts, whom Bush appointed to the Supreme Court the following week. The Republicans are particularly adept at this kind of thing. Yet, the networks of secret prisons and rendition points are probably far more valuable to them than the gulag in Guantanamo, which even the bumpkin billionaire Thomas Friedman thinks is an "embarrassment".