Sunset on Guantánamo

23.1.09

On Tuesday evening, as the newly inaugurated President Obama asked the judges at Guantánamo’s Military Commissions to call a halt to the proceedings for four months, “in the interests of justice,” and in order to give “the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process, generally, and the cases currently pending before the military commissions,” Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch took this photo of sunset over Camp Justice.

Built at a cost of $12 million, Camp Justice, which has been the Commissions’ home since September 11, 2007, was intended to provide room for six trials to take place simultaneously, in the days when the Bush administration believed that up to 80 Guantánamo prisoners would be put forward for trial in the novel, and much-criticized system that was first conceived by Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001.

Its future is now uncertain, as Joanne and her colleague Stacy Sullivan explain in a report from Guantánamo for Salon, and as I also discuss in my latest article, Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right To Halt The Guantánamo Trials. If there is any justice — and President Obama certainly believes that there should be — then the last words spoken in these courtrooms will be the parting words of Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge in the case of Omar Khadr, who concluded Tuesday’s hearing by saying, “We will reconvene tomorrow, unless otherwise ordered by the commission.”

As I have reported for the last 20 months, the Commissions have been a disaster from start to finish, unanimously savaged by the government’s own military defense attorneys for being rigged and unconstitutional, ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in 2006, derailed on occasion by the judges themselves, and capable of delivering only three verdicts: a politicized plea bargain in the case of David Hicks, an unexpectedly lenient sentence in the case of Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden (whose release in December demolished Guantánamo’s rationale), and a life sentence for al-Qaeda operative Ali Hamza al-Bahlul on the eve of the Presidential election, after a disturbingly one-sided show trial. Profiles of 16 of the 18 prisoners who were facing charges when the Commissions were halted can be found here, and two more were charged just five weeks ago. For analyses of some of the Commissions’ major failings, see The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns “Chaotic” Trials in Case of Teenage Torture Victim.

My thanks to Joanne for permission to use the photo, and I sincerely hope that this will be my last post about the inaptly-named Camp Justice.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, 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.

One Response

  1. Frances Madeson says...

    Write the whole article in red. Red for the bloodshed, red for the shame of it all, red for the stop signal.

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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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