Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Amnesty International Sez

There's one standard for human rights for the US and another one for all the other nations.

We've talked about this before.This month, we can bear witness to the fruits of the Military Commissions Act - you know, the law that made the Preznit the "final arbiter on torture":
Five hours later, on the afternoon of 6 March 2007, the Department of Defence held a briefing in Washington, DC, to announce the start of Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) for the 14 detainees transferred in September 2006 from years of secret CIA custody in undisclosed locations to the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

The CSRT is the administrative procedure set up by the US government in mid-2004 to review the "enemy combatant" status of detainees held in Guantánamo, many of whom had already been held for more than two years without charge or trial. The CSRTs consist of panels of three military officers who can rely on secret evidence and evidence extracted under torture or other ill-treatment in making their determinations. The detainee is denied access to a lawyer and generally to witnesses and is presumed to be an "enemy combatant" unless he can prove otherwise.

These 14 men had been held for up to four and half years in secret facilities outside the USA before being taken to Guantánamo. They had been held incommunicado for all that time, including being kept from the ICRC. They were subjected to "alternative" interrogation techniques, widely reported to include methods that violate the international legal prohibition on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Such techniques would feature in State Department reports if used by countries other than the USA.

The CSRTs for the 14 men are due to begin, in secret, on 9 March. The USA’s treatment of the 14 over the years has transformed them from individuals with allegedly high intelligence value to detainees with information about possible government crimes, including enforced disappearance. The authorities have classified as "top secret" details of the CIA secret detention program, including interrogation techniques, location of detention facilities, and detention conditions, the disclosure of which could cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security. The effect, if not the purpose, of this classification is to conceal human rights violations.

The detainees were transferred to Guantánamo for the stated purpose of bringing them to trial by military commission. A CSRT determination of "enemy combatant" status renders a detainee eligible for trial by military commission under the Military Commission Act (MCA), signed into law by President Bush on 17 October 2006.

In trials under the MCA, the prosecution may introduce information extracted under cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; or under treatment that violated the state’s obligation to treat all detainees with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person; or under treatment that amounted to "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular degrading and humiliating treatment" under Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. At the same time, the MCA prohibits the defendant from invoking the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights. In addition, the USA considers that international human rights law does not apply in the "war on terror".

In military commission trials, the prosecution may also introduce evidence while protecting from disclosure "the sources, methods, or activities" by which the USA acquired it, if the military judge finds that the evidence is "reliable" and the sources, methods or activities classified. Amnesty International fears that the military commissions will lack the independence and impartiality to conduct the necessary searching inquiries into government conduct. If they do not, the commissions will become a forum in which government abuses are whitewashed.

Meanwhile, six months after these 14 detainees were brought out of years of secret custody, they are still being denied access to lawyers even as the government builds its criminal case against them. Now it intends to put them through a secret and clearly flawed administrative review process, in violation of their right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a court of law.
The question still on my mind: where in the Hell are the Democrats now that they have their coveted majorities in the House and Senate? Will this Congress continue to meekly endorse gross human rights violations in the name of the "War on Terra"?

No comments:

Post a Comment