The Gitmo Human Rights Circus

* Not one of the Gitmo inmates has been sentenced to 30 years of hard labour or execution; but the human rights activists are literally pissing themselves over the imaginary rights of these hard-core Islamo-loons who would kill thousands of infidels for the sake of Allah if only they had a chance

Guantanamo trials flout US legal fundamentals: critics

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The military “war crimes” commissions created to try US war-on-terror detainees held in Guantanamo bear only a partial resemblance to normal US courts and are heavily criticized for flouting fundamental principles of American law.

Guantanamo trials flout US legal fundamentals: critics
AFP/POOL/File – This July 2008 photograph of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by the US Military, …

Created in 2006 by the US Congress, the commissions have been put to the test just once, in the trial of Salim Hamdan, the former driver of Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

The result of that trial, concluded in August, was mixed: defense lawyers say he was denied basic rights under the special military commissions legislation, and the military jury found him guilty of supporting terrorism.

But it rejected the government’s most serious charge of conspiracy to terror, and, snubbing prosecutor requests for a death sentence, imposed a remarkably light sentence, making the Yemeni eligible for release in five months after accounting for time already spent in US hands.

On Monday the second such trial begins, of Ali Hamza Ahmad al-Bahlul, a propagandist for Al-Qaeda who faces up to life in prison if convicted multiple terror and murder-related charges.

The commissions are mostly faulted for allowing types of evidence that would be disallowed in civilian court or even normal US military courts martial.

“Only in Guantanamo Bay and North Korea can prosecutors utilize evidence obtained by torture in a criminal trial”, said Hamdan’s military lawyer, Navy Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer.

“Military commissions are a very different world,” said Lieutenant Colonel Suzanne Lachelier, a military lawyer assigned to defend Ramzi Binalshibh, who is accused of helping organize the September 11, 2001 attacks.

One difference with the setup of regular courts martial is that while the judge and jury are military, the prosecution and defense teams mix both military and civilian lawyers.

Most important is the evidence allowed: as Hamdan’s case showed, the commissions accept secret testimony, testimony and confessions that may have come from duress or torture, and restrictions on media coverage.

The commissions also accept “indirect evidence” — that taken from witnesses who would not appear in the court to confirm the testimony. Normal US courts would reject such evidence as “hearsay”.

Accepting such evidence would deny the standard principle in US law that an accused is able to confront the testimony against him.

Moreover, in the Guantanamo tribunals the prosecution can claim that their evidence is classified as secret, and force the judge to hold a hearing closed to any outsiders.

The use of classified documents is an integral part of the procedure, said Lachelier.

“The government can decide to use as evidence one of its documents without the first informing the defense and letting it see what is in the documents,” she said.

That leaves the defense to guess at what the prosecution has in its evidence, she said.

Lastly, the prison sentences the commissions hand down are supposed to be added onto whatever time the defendant has already spent in US captivity.

But in the Hamdan trial, the military judge Admiral Keith Allred rejected that and deducted “time served” from Hamdan’s sentence of five and a half years.

That meant that Hamdan would only have to spend five more months at Guantanamo.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon said it is not planning to release Hamdan any time soon — the Yemeni will continue to be held as an “enemy combatant.”