Planned Guantánamo Trials Deny 9/11 Defendants Basic Rights
Between The Lines
For The Week Ending Feb. 29, 2008
Posted Feb. 20, 2008
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Interview with Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild,
conducted by Scott Harris
On Feb. 11, the Bush administration announced it would charge six detainees held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, alleged to be involved in the planning of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Among those being charged are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the purported mastermind of the 9/11 conspiracy. This is the first set of charges brought by U.S. authorities against Guantánamo detainees that related directly to involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.
These trials will be conducted under the rules outlined in the Military Commissions Act passed in 2006 by the Republican-controlled Congress in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the original Bush trial procedures at Guantánamo were unconstitutional.
Although the Military Commissions Act forbids the admission of evidence extracted by torture, it permits evidence obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if it was secured before Dec. 30, 2005. Thus, the Bush administration’s refusal to declare waterboarding as an act of torture will be a key issue in these trials. Other procedures criticized allow a trial to proceed in the absence of the accused, places the power to appoint judges in the hands of the Secretary of Defense, permits the introduction of hearsay and evidence obtained without a warrant, and denies the accused the right to see all of the evidence against them. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, and professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, who assesses the legitimacy and fairness of the trials planned for these six Guantánamo detainees.
Marjorie Cohn is author of “Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law.” Contact the Laywers Guild at (212) 627-2656 or visit their website at NLG.org.
Read professor Cohn’s articles online at her website MarjorieCohn.com.