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Monday, August 01, 2005

 

kangaroo courts


what was easily assumed about military tribunals is in fact true, if air force lawyers are to be believed.

As the Pentagon was making its final preparations to begin war crimes trials against four detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, two senior prosecutors complained in confidential messages last year that the trial system had been secretly arranged to improve the chance of conviction and to deprive defendants of material that could prove their innocence.

The electronic messages, obtained by The New York Times, reveal a bitter dispute within the military legal community over the fairness of the system at a time when the Bush administration and the Pentagon were eager to have the military commissions, the first for the United States since the aftermath of World War II, be seen as just at home and abroad.

During the same time period, military defense lawyers were publicly criticizing the system, but senior officials dismissed their complaints and said they were contrived as part of the efforts to help their clients.

The defense lawyers' complaints and those of outside groups like the American Bar Association were, it is now clear, simultaneously being echoed in confidential messages by the two high-ranking prosecutors whose cases would, if anything, benefit from any slanting of the process.

... Among the striking statements in the prosecutors' messages was an assertion by one that the chief prosecutor had told his subordinates that the members of the military commission that would try the first four defendants would be "handpicked" to ensure that all would be convicted.

The same officer, Capt. John Carr of the Air Force, also said in his message that he had been told that any exculpatory evidence - information that could help the detainees mount a defense in their cases - would probably exist only in the 10 percent of documents being withheld by the Central Intelligence Agency for security reasons.

Captain Carr's e-mail message also said that some evidence that at least one of the four defendants had been brutalized had been lost and that other evidence on the same issue had been withheld. The March 15, 2004, message was addressed to Col. Frederick L. Borch, the chief prosecutor who was the object of much of Captain Carr's criticism.

The second officer, Maj. Robert Preston, also of the Air Force, said in a March 11, 2004, message to another senior officer in the prosecutor's office that he could not in good conscience write a legal motion saying the proceedings would be "full and fair" when he knew they would not.
the appeal of military tribunals to the bush administration was, to my mind, always in the fact that the complete lack of any method or evidence used to detain people in the war on terror would be utterly exposed by any other method. so it comes as little surprise that the process had to be perverted into a sort of secret show trial, farcical due process for the sake of saying that there was due process.

but it should deflate the argument forwarded by many against the reports of human rights watch and others that the united states government is behaving with contempt for and in apathetic violation of both the geneva conventions and american law.

reason's comment thread.


nice blog

 
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