Military Commissions Go Into Operation

July 29, 2008
Camp X-Ray

Camp X-Ray

A U.S. Trial by Its Looks, but Only So


GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — On the surface, the proceedings unfolding inside a makeshift courthouse on a hill here resemble an American trial… But behind the judicial routine at the first trial for a Guantánamo detainee lies a parallel universe of law and lawyers. Secret evidence held in red folders is not revealed in open court. The gallery is mostly empty, because there are no members of the public. In what would be the jury box, every occupant wears a military uniform.

In the first week of the trial of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, law enforcement officials recounted what he had said during interrogations in the years since he was detained in 2001. But it was also disclosed that some of the interrogations had been conducted in the middle of the night and by men wearing masks, and that Mr. Hamdan did not have a lawyer during those sessions, nor was he warned that he might be prosecuted….

The interrogations of Mr. Hamdan have caused him to sometimes think the trial is just another method of interrogation, a psychiatrist who interviewed him here testified. “He doesn’t know if this court is real,” the psychiatrist, Dr. Emily A. Keram, said.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees here had a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court. Some lawyers said the ruling suggested that other parts of the Constitution, like the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination, might apply here.

That could have undercut the case against Mr. Hamdan. But the military judge, Capt. Keith J. Allred of the Navy, ruled that “the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution does not apply to protect Mr. Hamdan.”…

When a reporter noted that in America reporters were permitted to see witnesses and evidence, a spokeswoman for the Office of Military Commissions at the Pentagon, Maj. Gail Crawford, responded, “This is not America.”

(See the full article in the NY Times, here)


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