Monday, June 06, 2005

A complete lack of justice

On May 13, 2005 Amnesty International published "Guantánamo and beyond: The continuing pursuit of unchecked executive power", a lengthy report detailing the questionable detention practices of our current administration. It is well-documented (more than 500 citations) and a worthwhile, if horrifying and disheartening, read.

There's far too much in the report to attempt to summarize it all, but here are a few snippets.
"[O]n 28 June 2004, the US Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that the federal courts in fact do have jurisdiction to hear appeals from foreign nationals detained in Guantánamo Bay.(5) Yet almost a year later, none of the more than 500 detainees of some 35 nationalities still held in the base – believed to include at least three people, from Canada, Chad and Saudi Arabia, who were minors at the time of being taken into custody – has had the lawfulness of his detention judicially reviewed."
In lieu of judicial review, detainees are evaluated by military/executive bodies, which Amnesty International describes in depth:
"Evidence extracted under torture or other coercion – the reliability of which will always be suspect – can be admitted by the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Administrative Review Boards – executive bodies that, respectively, determine whether each Guantánamo detainee is an 'enemy combatant' and then, annually, whether he remains a security risk or of intelligence value.

"Similarly, the rules for US military commissions – set up under a presidential Military Order to 'try' only foreign nationals – do not exclude the use of evidence extracted under torture or other coercion, in violation of international standards against torture and ill-treatment and for fair trial.(77) These military commissions are executive bodies – not independent or impartial courts – whose rules are determined by the executive, whose personnel are selected by the executive, and whose final decisions the executive vets, including whether a condemned defendant lives or dies. Time spent in executive detention as an 'enemy combatant', however long, is not to be considered as time already served if an individual is sentenced to a term of imprisonment by a military commission. In the event of an acquittal, it is the executive who will decide whether to release the detainee or place him or her back in indefinite detention as an 'enemy combatant'.


"In November 2004, a US federal judge ruled that, at least in one respect, the rules of the US military commissions were unlawful. Specifically, he noted, 'The accused himself may be excluded from proceedings ... and evidence may be adduced that he will never see.'"
How could we ever conceive of this as justice?

The report also includes a fine quote from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:
"It would be a mistake to treat human rights as though there were a trade-off to be made between human rights and such goals as security or development. We only weaken our hand in fighting the horrors of extreme poverty or terrorism if, in our efforts to do so, we deny the very human rights that these scourges take away from citizens. Strategies based on the protection of human rights are vital for both our moral standing and the practical effectiveness of our actions."
And another from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:
"Conformity with international human rights and humanitarian law is not a weakness in the fight against terrorism but a weapon, ensuring the widest international support for actions and avoiding situations which could provoke misplaced sympathy for terrorists or their causes… [T]he Assembly considers that the US Government has betrayed its own highest principles in the zeal with which it has attempted to pursue the 'war on terror'. These errors have perhaps been most manifest in relation to Guantánamo Bay." 26 April 2005

No comments: