USA: Daily injustice, immeasurable damage

March 5, 2010

USA: Daily injustice, immeasurable damage


Document - USA: Daily injustice, immeasurable damage

Presidential advisers may urge U-turn on civilian trials for 9/11 suspects; Senate ‘enemy belligerent’ bill unveiled


05 March 2010

AI Index: AMR 51/020/2010

Twelve weeks ago, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech proclaiming the USA’s commitment to human rights. When injustice anywhere is ignored, she said, justice everywhere is denied.

Justice denied for one day is bad enough.

It is now more than 400 days since President Barack Obama ordered his administration to resolve each and every case of the detainees held at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, and to close the detention facilities there “as soon as practicable” and in any case no later than 365 days after his order. Today more than 180 detainees remain held at the base, with an interagency review having apparently concluded that nearly 50 of them should continue to be held in indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Amnesty International reiterates that the Guantánamo detainees must immediately be brought to fair trials – which should be before civilian courts not military commissions – or released. Where detainees for release cannot be returned to their home countries because of the risk of human rights violations they would face and no other appropriate state is willing to receive them immediately, they should be released in the USA, at least until another solution is found.

Justice denied for one day is bad enough.

More than 100 days have passed since Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would prosecute in US federal court five Guantánamo detainees accused of involvement in the attacks of 11 September 2001, reversing the policy decision of the Bush administration to try them before military commissions. However, the five are today still in Guantánamo, with the issue becoming bogged down in domestic politics, including efforts within Congress to have all such trials conducted before military commissions.

Now it seems that President Obama’s advisers may be about to recommend that the trial of the five be returned to the military commissions, as part of a political deal – as opposed to a human rights solution – to win congressional funding and legislative support for closing Guantánamo. President Obama and the Attorney General should reject any such recommendation.

Justice denied for one day is bad enough.

It is now more than 600 days since the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the USA to conduct any criminal proceedings against children detained in armed conflict promptly and in accordance with minimum fair trial standards, and not before military tribunals. Today, Canadian national Omar Khadr, now in his eighth year in Guantánamo, is still facing a military commission trial for acts he is accused of committing when he was 15 years old or younger.

It is also over 600 days since the US Supreme Court ruled that the Guantánamo detainees had the constitutional right to a “prompt” habeas corpus hearing to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Most of those who have sought such a hearing have still not yet had one.

More than 1,200 days have passed since President George W. Bush confirmed for the first time that the USA had been operating a secret detention program for the previous four and a half years. No one has yet been brought to account for authorizing or perpetrating the enforced disappearances at the core of that program, that, like torture, constitute crimes under international law.