Home > Law, Torture > Change We Can Believe In, XI

Change We Can Believe In, XI

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Change We Can Believe In: de facto life sentences at Guantánamo

It’s been so long since I’ve had an entry in my Change We Can Believe In series that I’ve lost count of where I am. I think this is right. Anyway, in the news last week, if you’ve looked hard enough, was the death at Guantánamo of Awal Gul.

The Defense Department announced on Thursday that Awal Gul, 48, an Afghan who had been held at the military prison in Cuba since October 2002, collapsed late Tuesday after exercising on an elliptical machine.

The statement described Mr. Gul as “an admitted Taliban recruiter and commander of a military base in Jalalabad” who operated a guesthouse for Al Qaeda. It said he also admitted meeting with Osama bin Laden “and providing him with operational assistance on several occasions.”

But W. Matthew Dodge, a lawyer who represented Mr. Gul in a habeas corpus lawsuit, called those claims “outrageous” and “slander.” He said that his client had resigned from the Taliban, and that in three years of litigation, the government never claimed or pointed to any evidence that his client had run any Qaeda house or admitted providing support to Mr. bin Laden.

Mr. Gul was the seventh detainee to die at the prison since it opened in January 2002.

As long as we get to hold people in indefinite detention without due process, many more will find themselves serving unintended life sentences. What’s that? President Obama said he’s closing Guantánamo? Yes, he did say that once, didn’t he? It seems he wasn’t serious.

For more details, see Glenn Greenwald’s report last Friday. I’ll quote one paragraph:

This episode also demonstrates the absurdity of those who claim that President Obama has been oh-so-eagerly trying to close Guantanamo only to be thwarted by a recalcitrant Congress. The Obama administration has sought to “close” the camp only in the most meaningless sense of that word: by moving its defining injustice — indefinite, due-process-free detention — a few thousand miles north onto U.S. soil. But the crux of the Guantanamo travesty — indefinite detention — is something the Obama administration has long planned to preserve, and that has nothing to do with what Congress has or has not done. Indeed, Gul was one of the 50 detainees designated by Obama for that repressive measure. Thus, had Gul survived, the Obama administration would have sought to keep him imprisoned indefinitely without any pretense of charging him with a crime — neither in a military commission nor a real court. Instead, they would have simply continued the Bush/Cheney policy of imprisoning him indefinitely without any charges.

If Obama doesn’t watch out, he may find himself in the same boat as Bush, unable to travel to Switzerland after his presidency. President Obama, you better get over there now. Do some sightseeing. Have some schnitzel mit spaetzle. Chocolate too.

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Categories: Law, Torture
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