Thursday, April 26, 2007

Omar Khadr's Defence Team is Angry

Here's a text of a letter they released to the Miami Herald:

``We have just learned that our client, Omar Khadr, has been charged by the United States government with several offenses that are not even valid war crimes, for which he will be tried by military commission under The Military Commissions Act of 2006. This is the third set of charges laid against Omar. Yet, no matter how many times the government issues new charges, the military commissions system will continue to be an illegitimate one. Indeed, the system is virtually indistinguishable from the one previously invalidated by the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld just last year.

'The recent plea agreement accepted by David Hicks after less than a day of military commission proceedings and after significant negotiations between Australia and the U.S. demonstrates that the resolution of these cases is political and not the result of a legal process. Clearly, the U.S. is using the case of Omar in an attempt to rehabilitate the military commissions, which Hicks' plea demonstrated is a tainted process. In doing so, the U.S. will be the first country in modern history to try an individual who was a child at the time of the alleged war crimes. Indeed, the charge of conspiracy against Omar is based on alleged acts some of which occurred when Omar was less than 10 years of age.

``Omar Khadr was taken into U.S. custody at the age of 15 and has been detained at Guantánamo since he was 16, in conditions equal to or worse than those given to convicted adult criminals, such as prolonged solitary confinement and repeated instances of torture. After nearly 5 years in such conditions, the government is now demanding his appearance before what can only amount to a kangaroo court. The fact that this Administration has seen fit to designate this youth for trial by military commission is abhorrent.

``Now is the time for Canada and the U.S. to negotiate a political resolution because the commissions system is incapable of justice. Otherwise, Omar, just barely twenty years of age and a minor at the time of the alleged crimes, is guaranteed to be convicted in one of the greatest show trials on earth. This should not be the legacy of America or Canada.''


Muneer Ahmad
Kristine Huskey
Richard Wilson
American University College of Law
Washington D.C.

Lt. Col. Colby Vokey
U.S. Marine Corps.

Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler
U.S. Navy

The Washington Post has more:

Opponents of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay criticized authorities for subjecting Khadr to the same military trial system as adult terror suspects. In any other conflict, he would have been treated as a child soldier, said Jumana Musa, advocacy director of Amnesty International.

"This was, in fact, a child," Musa said. "From the beginning, he was never treated in accordance with his age. He was treated like any adult taken into custody."

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said Khadr must be held accountable.

"The Defense Department will continue to uphold the law and bring unlawful enemy combatants to justice through the military commissions process," he said.

In other words, the US government doesn't care who it goes after or how - even children.

Khadr has already lost a civil suit filed against him:

The U.S. military said Khadr hurled a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., and wounded Army Sgt. Layne Morris, of West Jordan, Utah. The charges say those acts were carried out "in violation of the law of war," but did not elaborate.

Speer's widow and Morris filed a civil lawsuit against Khadr and his father. In February, a judge awarded them $102.6 million.

And what do the families of innocent civilians killed by Americans receive as compensation from the US military? A maximum of $2500, while torture victims like Maher Arar and Khaled al-Masri have had their civil suits against the US government thrown out on the grounds of "national security".

Meanwhile, Gonzales' justice department has decided to limit Gitmo detainees' access to their lawyers. The noose around their necks is tightening with every right Bushco tries to strip away from them.

Lawyers representing some of the hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay have angrily condemned efforts by the Bush administration to make it more difficult for them to visit their clients. The lawyers say restrictions already in place make their jobs all but impossible.

The US Justice Department has requested that a federal court impose tighter restrictions on the lawyers, claiming their visits with prisoners have "caused intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo". In a brief to the court the department claims information passed from prisoners to their lawyers and then given to the media.

Lawyers representing some of the 385 prisoners still held at the US Naval base on Cuba yesterday reacted angrily to the accusations leveled by the department. They said what was really driving the request was the US government's desire to further diminish the already severely limited scrutiny that Guantanamo receives.

Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of the UK-based group Reprieve which represents several dozen prisoners, said of the claims: "They say the lawyers have caused unrest, they say we have caused hunger strikes. This is monumental crap. They say we are inciting them. Of course, we have talked to them about their hunger strikes – that is our jobs. But the hunger strikes are done in reaction to their treatment. And any information we gather has to go through the censors."

He added: "This is being done to stop information coming out of Guantanamo. It's being done to stop any journalists finding out what they did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others." Under the proposals, filed earlier this month in Washington DC, lawyers would be restricted to just three visits with an existing client, correspondence they sent to their clients would be vetted by military intelligence officers and government officials would be empowered to prevent lawyers from having access to secret evidence used by military tribunals to decide whether the prisoners were "enemy combatants".

Gitmo is definitely a "legal black hole" as are the rest of the secret prisons the CIA still maintains around the world where untold numbers of people we've never even heard of have been tortured and disappeared.

And don't expect any changes coming from the US senate any time soon either:

Senate skirmish over detainees at Guantanamo Bay ended in a draw Thursday, with Democrats urging action on the prisoners' behalf but running into stiff opposition from Republicans.

"What is the hurry?" Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The indefinite detention of nearly 400 prisoners without charges is "unconstitutional. It's un-American," said the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), one of half a dozen witnesses.

CNN's Jack Cafferty has more:

As for Khadr's case:

On Friday, Khadr and fellow Gitmo prisoner Salim Hamdan have an appeal to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue is whether they have a right to certain constitutional guarantees before a military tribunal in a case where they face the possibility of life imprisonment or death upon conviction.

A law passed by the U.S. Congress limits the right of appeal for Gitmo prisoners.

If the court decides to accept their case, oral arguments could follow within a few months and delay Khadr's tribunal.

Still stuck in legal limbo after all of these years with no end in sight. I guess that's the new American Way™.

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