Boston Globe Editorial - Why Guantánamo is unjust
Copyright by The Boston Globe
Published: June 28, 2007
For most of the 400 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the only chance to challenge their confinement as enemy combatants comes at their Combatant Status Review Tribunals. No one in the Bush administration ever claimed these proceedings were full-blown trials in which the prisoners would have the benefit of an attorney. But it was not until last week that a military insider revealed just what a travesty of justice the tribunals actually are.
The disclosures of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen E. Abraham of the U.S. Army Reserve are more reason to close Guantánamo, move the prisoners to mainland U.S. prisons, and try those suspected of war crimes in federal courts or courts martial. Under pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the administration is at least moving closer to shuttering the detention center.
The attorneys who have worked with Guantánamo prisoners but have not been allowed to represent them in the tribunals have long said the hearings were kangaroo courts. The tribunals are important because they offered a chance for prisoners to claim they were detained by mistake in Afghanistan or Pakistan, where U.S. officials paid as much as $5,000 in bounties for individuals taken into custody.
In an affidavit in a federal appeals case, Abraham charged that evidence against prisoners was often generalized and did not allege specific acts. He also charged military commanders with putting pressure on the officers serving on the tribunals.
Despite the Defense Department's effort to answer Abraham's criticism by stating that he had "limited experience" with the tribunals and that they were "fair, rigorous, and robust," Abraham had a sound basis for his observations. He was both a member of a tribunal and served as a liaison between the office conducting the tribunals and intelligence agencies with access to information about the prisoners.
In that capacity, he reviewed intelligence data to see if there was any information favorable to the prisoners. He said that when he asked the intelligence agencies to state in writing that there was no undisclosed evidence that would benefit the prisoners, "the requests were summarily denied."
Gates has said any trials of suspects should take place elsewhere, because "no matter how transparent, how open the trials, if they took place in Guantánamo. . . they would lack credibility." The Combatant Status Review Tribunals lack transparency, openness, and fairness.