Tuesday, October 24, 2006

tortured by both sides

From the AP in the Seattle PI:

Abdul Rahim insists he's an apolitical student who fled a strict father. But he's fallen into a black hole in the war on terror in which first the Taliban and then the United States imprisoned him as an enemy of the state.

Arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in January 2000, Rahim says al-Qaida leaders burned him with cigarettes, smashed his right hand, deprived him of sleep, nearly drowned him and hanged him from the ceiling until he "confessed" to spying for the United States.

U.S. forces took the young Kurd from Syria into custody in January 2002 after the Taliban fled his prison. Accusing him of being an al-Qaida terrorist, U.S. interrogators deprived him of sleep, threatened him with police dogs and kept him in stress positions for hours, he says. He's been held ever since as an enemy combatant.

The government says this:
"Multiple reviews have been conducted since each detained enemy fighter was captured, including for these three individuals," said a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon. "There is a significant amount of evidence, both unclassified and classified, which supports continued detention of these detainees and others at Guantanamo."


The whole point of our criminal justice system that distinguishes it from that of, say, Iran, is that a jury and judge get to evaluate the claims of the government to see whether they are full of shit. Enemy combatants have few of those guarantees. Hence the government can make whatever empty assertions it feels will help its p.r. effort in the GWOT and face absolutely no consequences. Unless the courts strike down the recent torture bill, detainees now have no habeas corpus rights—they can’t appeal the legality of their detention. Their cases supposedly will be tried by military tribunals (although few—any?—have been tried after 5 years) where they will not have full access to the evidence being used against them.

I am open to the possibility that the government is right and that Rahim is lying about his time in Afghanistan. But that is the whole point--we don't really know if he's guilty or innocent until he gets a fair trial.

Due process exists for a simple reason: to prevent errors in the process of determining guilt or innocence. When you gut those procedures, it makes sense that you would drastically decrease your chances of being right on that important question.

And surprise—the government has been wrong in many cases we know about already. Like the Uyghurs who were flown to Albania three days before their hearing so the government wouldn’t have to admit they were innocent after being locked up and mistreated for four years.

If the government says anything at all on the issue of Guantanamo detainees, you are better off assuming that the opposite is true.

Rahim on his experience over the past several years: ''Nothing changed in my life. I was taken from prison to prison.''

No comments: