Friday, March 23, 2007

Things that make you go "hmmm"

In a new report, Amnesty International has blasted the Bush administration's program of military tribunals for prisoners at Guantánamo, declaring they do not meet recognized international standards of fairness.
Amnesty said likely defendants include people captured in Pakistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mauritania, Gambia, Egypt and other places where the United States was not engaged in armed conflict. Some were victims of secret detention, secret transfers from country to country, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, it said.

"The military commissions will be convened following a trail of illegality, with those to be tried arbitrarily detained and ill-treated for years," Amnesty said in a report titled "Justice Delayed and Justice Denied."
Amesnty also noted that the judges and jurors at the tribunal are not independent, as they are military people subject to Bush's authority and appeals would be heard by judges appointed by the Secretary of Defense. The group urged other nations "not to provide any information to assist the prosecution in military commission trials."

There's an interesting twist to this: Amnesty wants the cases moved to the regular US court system - and, according to a report from Reuters, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at least partly agrees with them.
Soon after becoming defense secretary, Robert Gates argued the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed because the international community would view any trials there as tainted....

Instead, Gates, who became Pentagon chief in December, argued that terrorism suspects should be tried in the United States to make the proceedings more credible....
And if that don't make ya go "hmmm," consider who sided with him: Condoleezza Rice.

"The Big" Dick Cheney and Alberto Gone-zales argued against it (no surprise) and Bush sided with them (ditto), putting an end to the idea - for now, anyway.
One official said the issue may come up again if Gonzales is forced to step down because of the battle over fired U.S. attorneys.

"Let's see what happens to Gonzales," the senior administration official told the Times. "I suspect this one isn't over yet."
We can hope. Actually we should do more than hope, because hope alone didn't get us to the point where the discussion even arose. Noisy complaints did.

Footnote: Just to be clear, the article doesn't say that Gates wanted the trials moved to civilian courts, only to the US. But since the objection was that doing so would give prisoners undeniable access to certain legal and constitutional rights which the White House insists don't exist in the supposed legal limbo of Gitmo, the facts that Gates wanted to do it and was concerned about "tainted" trials still seem to put him (and Rice) reasonably close to AI's position - and at minimum one hell of a lot closer than I thought anybody on the Shrub team would be.

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