Saturday, July 21, 2007

Guantánamo Ruling

A legal bombshell seems to have gone largely unnoticed by the general public: in a stunning blow to the Bush administration, a federal appeals court ordered the government to turn over almost all of its information on the inmates at Guantánamo who are challenging their detention. This is a direct challenge to the Justice Department which we know, is basically controlled by the Bush administration, contrary to the law and contrary to the Constitution of the United States and which wants to limit the disclosures. It opens up the field for legal battles which will target the government’s insistence that it is allowed to keep inmates imprisoned indefinitely.

William Glaberson of the New York Times writes:

A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington unanimously rejected a government effort to limit the information it must turn over to the court and lawyers for the detainees.
The court said meaningful review of the military tribunals would not be possible “without seeing all the evidence, any more than one can tell whether a fraction is more or less than half by looking only at the numerator and not the denominator.”

Why the Bush administration cannot follow London’s lead and simply try people in a normal court of law or let them go if there is insufficient evidence to hold them is puzzling. Most of the 360 men still held at Guantánamo cannot even be classified as enemy combatants. The method by which the U.S. army offered rewards for tips leading to the arrest of Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Iraq was a flop. It is widely accepted that most of the men turned over to the military were not affiliated with a terrorist group. However $500 in Afghanistan, which is what the military doled out for this kind of information is over two years’ pay for the average worker. Warlords would hand out bogus information on people they wanted to have removed and ordinary people gave false information about neighbors in order to pocket the cash.

Guantánamo remains a crime against humanity. This court ruling is a small step in dismantling the Gestapo-like actions of the Bush Administration in arresting and indefinitely holding human beings in conditions that would be criticized by the United States were they occurring elsewhere.

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