GUANTANAMO BAY- The Detainee Trials
As a guest of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, I flew to GTMO in May 2008. An
interesting place; stuck away from the shopping malls and baseball fields used by the military
dependents lay the detainee camps holding the few 9/11 perpetrators captured and others
gathered up in Afghanistan. While unfortunately I was denied a visit to any of the detainee
facilities (although a New Jersey rock band was allowed to tour them...), I was part of the media
observer team watching Salim Hamdan's pre-trial hearing.
We had an interesting and articulate group; Dr Frank Harvey, from Dalhousie University
(Halifax, CN) Centre for Foreign Policy, Ben Wizner; from the American Civil Liberty Union,
and Amnesty International's Ian Seiderman.
Hamdan was Osama Bin Laden's driver; caught in Afghanistan in 2001. His legal efforts
to bring himself to trial became the focal point for questions of indefinite detention in
the "Global War on Terror", the ability of Guantanamo Bay detainees to petition for habeas
corpus, the validity of military commissions rather than civil trials for alleged terrorists, and
the correct implementation, if any, of the Geneva Conventions for such terrorists. Hamdan
won his two Supreme Court cases, with the Justices declaring the military commissions to be
unconstitutional (2006), as well as deciding the detainees were due Habeas Corpus (2008).
For all the overblown rhetoric calling the 950 +/- detainees the "worst of the worst," in 2009 a
military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay threw out the death-penalty charges the prosecution had
requested, found him guilty of "providing material support" to terrorism, sentenced him to 'time
served' and sent him home to Yemen.
Welcome to GTMO!
(L-R) With Frank Harvey and Ian Seiderman