Relatives of 9/11 Victims Condemn Shameful and Unconstitutional Guantánamo Trials

11.12.08

As regular readers know, I don’t normally cross-post other people’s articles, but as a long-standing opponent of the trial system for “terror suspects “ at Guantánamo (the Military Commissions, conceived by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001), I was disturbed to note that, on Monday, US citizens who had lost family members in the 9/11 attacks arrived at Guantánamo to attend pre-trial hearings for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of planning and facilitating the attacks. They had been invited by the Pentagon, and chosen on a lottery basis.

I have no objection to relatives of the victims attending legitimate trials, but the Commissions are no such thing (see my article The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials for a detailed explanation), and their presence served only to confirm that the Pentagon, which has been attempting to use the trial for propaganda purposes since April this year, had invited them along in an attempt to provide legitimacy to a system that is woefully flawed, and a betrayal of the notions of justice and respect for the law on which the United States was founded (see my article about the recent one-sided show trial of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul for evidence).

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This visionary and aspirational document, forged in the wake of the atrocities of the Second World War, set out a template for human rights that has reflected humanity’s highest notions of justice and equality ever since. The Articles in the UDHR that particularly reflect on US conduct in the “War on Terror” and the establishment of the Military Commissions are Articles 5, 9, 10 and 11: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile,” “Everyone charged with a crime is entitled to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal,” and “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.”

It seemed appropriate, therefore, that, to mark the occasion, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) released a letter written by 33 relatives of 9/11 victims, who spoke out because they, too, were disappointed by the Pentagon’s actions, and wished to express their condemnation of what they regard as a “shameful,” “secretive and unconstitutional” trial system that is not “capable of achieving the justice that 9/11 family members and all Americans deserve.”

The full text of the letter is reproduced below:

9/11 Family Members Challenge Legitimacy Of Guantánamo Military Commissions

As family members who lost loved ones on 9/11, we feel compelled to speak out about this week’s proceedings at Guantánamo. Recently, the Guantánamo military commissions office announced that victims’ family members would be permitted, on a lottery basis, to attend the Guantánamo legal hearings of those accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. The lottery system inherently results in the granting of media attention to the select few who are chosen, and whose views are not necessarily representative of all victims’ families. The media coverage of Monday’s commission hearings included statements attributed to attending family members that the tribunals provided a fair hearing for these prosecutions and that family members “were struck by the extensive rights accorded the accused men.”

While we support everyone’s right to their individual opinions about these proceedings, including, of course, other family members who have suffered the devastation we have, we also feel obliged to make clear that many of us do not believe these military commissions to be fair, in accordance with American values, or capable of achieving the justice that 9/11 family members and all Americans deserve.

We believe that the secretive and unconstitutional nature of these proceedings deprive us of the right to know the full truth about what happened on 9/11. These prosecutions have been politically motivated from the start, are designed to ensure quick convictions at the expense of due process and transparency, and are structured to prevent the revelation of abusive interrogations and torture engaged in by the U.S. government. Unfortunately, any verdict borne of these proceedings will lack legitimacy and leave us wondering if true justice has been served. No comfort or closure can come from military commissions that ignore the rule of law and stain America’s reputation at home and abroad.

We are strongly encouraged by the incoming administration’s promise to end this shameful system, and we are hopeful for a fresh start for these and all other Guantánamo prosecutions in U.S. courts worthy of American justice. It is time for our nation to stop betraying its own values – and the values of so many who died on 9/11.

Anne M. Mulderry, Kinderhook, New York, mother of Stephen V. Mulderry
Terry Kay Rockefeller, Arlington, MA, sister of Laura Rockefeller
J. William Harris, Arlington, MA, brother-in-law of Laura Rockefeller
Loretta Filipov, Concord, MA, wife of Alexander M. Filipov
Alissa Torres, New York, NY, wife of Luis Eduardo Torres
Bob McIlvaine, Oreland, PA, father of Bobby McIlvaine
Wright Salisbury, Lexington, MA, father-in-law of Edward Hennessy, Jr.
Barbara and Jim Fyfe, Durham, NC, parents of Karleton Douglas Beye Fyfe
Robyn Bernstein, Bolton, MA, daughter of Roberta Bernstein Heber
Patricia J. and James L. Perry, M.D., Seaford, NY, parents of NYPD officer John W. Perry
Rita Lasar, New York, NY, sister of Abraham Zelmanowitz
Valerie Lucznikowska, New York, NY, aunt of Adam Arias
Marion Kminek, Cape Coral, FL, mother of Mari-Rae Sopper
Kate Walsh Calton, Tampa, FL, wife of James Walsh
Beverly Eckert, Stamford, CT, wife of Sean Rooney
Monica Gabrielle, wife of Richard Gabrielle
Lorie Van Auken, wife of Kenneth Van Auken
Dr. Robin S. Theurkauf, wife of Thomas Theurkauf
Andrea N. LeBlanc, Lee, NH, wife of Robert G. LeBlanc
Frank Tatum, Stillwater, NY, son of Diane Moore Parsons
Antonio Aversano, Hadley, MA, son of Louis F. Aversano, Jr.
Nissa Youngren, Rochester, NY, daughter of Robert G. LeBlanc
Paula Shapiro, Pala, CA, mother of Eric Adam Eisenberg
Patricia Casazza, wife of John Casazza
Mindy Kleinberg, wife of Alan Kleinberg
Sheila Rooney, Fayetteville, NY, sister of Sean Rooney
Rosemary Dillard, wife of Eddie A. Dillard
Blake Allison, Lyme, NH, husband of Anna S.W. Allison
Roxanna K. Myhrum, Cambridge, MA, niece of Sean Rooney
Carolyn LeBlanc, Lee, NH, daughter of Robert LeBlanc
Matthew Lasar, New York, NY, nephew of Abe Zelmanowitz

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press/the University of Michigan Press, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

Note: The picture at the top of the article is a courtoom drawing by artist Janet Hamlin, showing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, center, and co-defendant Walid Bin Attash, left, during the pre-trial hearing on Monday, December 8, 2008, at Guantánamo.

One Response

  1. Gary Swenchonis says...

    What in God’s name is wrong with you people.
    These sleazeballs where caught on the battle field. They have no rights as an America Citizens. 1. because they are not citizens. 2. Because they chose not to wear a uniform that is recognized by other nations that adhere to rules of rule. Instead they hid among the women and children to commit murder. Every nation at war through out history has shot creeps like these on the battlefield where they were caught. These murderers are a soldiers worst nightmare. And for many soldiers they are death in disguise. Bin Attash helped to murder my son., and God knows how many other victims blood he has own his hands.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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