We recall the never ending arguments as to how the suspected terrorists confined in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be tried. The Obama administration has consistently sought to try these and similar cases in the United States, in civil courts, where rules of evidence and testimony are stronger, which, many believe, result in more fair and just verdicts. Hearsay evidence is allowed in military tribunals; the tribunals are ordinarily used in cases where time is of the essence, as in battlefield situations. These trials, military tribunals, have begun.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly the mastermind of the never to be forgotten September 11, 2001 attacks and four other suspected terrorists were brought into a Guantanamo Bay Naval base courtroom for arraignment. It might have occurred to planners that prisoners who have been subject to cruel abuse night and day for several years would find some difficulty in adjusting to the decorum of a courtroom.
The prisoners had arrived at a decision to participate only passively in the preliminary motions. An indication of their mindset came when they were asked to place headphones on their ears so they could listen in their native language. The defendants found the placement of headphones difficult or impossible. They believed the phones to be torture devices. The prisoners passively ignored the judge, praying into their beards, or making frightened outbursts. They hoped to bring the details of their torture to the attention of whomever might listen. They have no way of knowing if the world is aware of their torment.
A defense attorney used the word “torture” while explaining to the court the seemingly odd acceptance of the headphones. Although torture is a primary issue in this case, and torture is at the heart of what the defendants are hoping to bring to the light of day, the word torture itself has been banned from the proceedings. The rationale for the banning is that it refers to “classified information.” The physical response to the use of the word in court is to disallow those listening to the proceeding to hear it. The court proceedings are on a 40 second delay, and the media, as well as interested persons, are behind a soundproof glass. Thus, when the word torture is spoken, the listeners only hear static.
David Nevin is the attorney for Sheikh Mohammed. He has been provided with a long list of subjects banned from the proceedings and presumably from the coming trial. He was told, he relates, “You can’t talk about it [torture], you can’t discuss it… It is not going to happen!”
Steps have already been taken in the conduct of this military tribunal to prevent any escape from further punishment by the defendants as a result of their being waterboarded or otherwise tortured. In the somewhat obfuscational words of Brigadier General Mark martins, the chief prosecutor of the commissions, “The remedy for torture or cruel treatment, things that will make you ashamed that they were done, that are deplorable and disappointing, The remedy is not to dismiss all charges, It is harder than that. It doesn’t pass the common sense test. That everything is polluted and tainted by an instance of torture? That means everyone goes free because someone else, who may have been acting independently,out of control, or did something wrong? That’s not Justice. It is harder than that” General Martins will also be the head of the team in the prosecution in the September 11 case.
Many would agree that if torture is not the issue in these cases, it must be an issue of perhaps even more prominence, in some other venue. Prior to the revelations of WikiLeaks, the global public was told that cruel and inhumane punishment at Guantanamo Bay, and at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq was done under strict control to prevent future attacks on America. But WikiLeaks provided the information that in a vast number of instances, torture was used to produce evidence against suspects already in custody.
We have seen photos of Guantanamo detainees forced to stand on small platforms, arms akimbo, for uncertain periods of time.
Close examination of the photos reveals that in at least one case, the detainee has electrical wires attached to his hands and to his genitals.
Also documented is the forcing of suspect Mohammed al-Qahtani to wear a dog leash and collar, perform naked, and at times in women’s undergarments, for a female interrogator, to be sexually humiliated, and to urinate on himself. While these alleged facts are known to many Americans, it is not commonly known that this humiliation went on for 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of 54 days.
Exactly 450 foreign guerrilla suspects were held at the naval base in Cuba, many for four years or more without charge. There, suspects were held without trial, unadvised of their charges and subjected to torture.
In two separate legal opinions written in 2005, the Justice Department under George W. Bush authorized the C.I.A. to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures. It was speculated that the actual practices extended far beyond the limits described by the president. One suspected supporter of al Qaeda, German Murat Kurnaz, was tortured. For nine months, he was kept permanently under a bright light around the clock. Kurnaz has said he suffered abuse at Guantanamo; interrogation techniques including sexual humiliation, water torture and the desecration of Islam.
Torture that seems to go far beyond the president’s [G.W. Bush] description has long been reported at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The UN Committee Against Torture said the US should release detainees or give them access to a judicial process. In December of 2006, a lawsuit was filed by two civil rights groups that would hold Bush’s Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld personally responsible for allegations of torture in overseas military prisons. The lawsuit describes the imprisonment of nine foreigners detained in Iraq and Afghanistan. It contends the men were beaten, suspended upside down from the ceiling by chains, urinated on, shocked, sexually humiliated, burned, locked inside boxes and subjected to mock executions.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged 9/11 architect, is about to be tried by military tribunal. It has come to light that as the death and devastation of September 11, 2011 unfolded, Sheikh Mohammed watched the televised coverage of those horrendous hours from a safe house in the Pakistani Port city of Karachi, along with other members of al-Qaeda.
Four other defendents in the just-beginning trial at Guantanamo Bay are: Ramzi Bin al-shibh,Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa al Hawsawi.