Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Correcting Col. Moe

Some of our favorite people (Mark, Wells, Gita) wrote letters to the editor of the NY Times in response to Col. Morris Davis' laughable op-ed.

Here is a selection:

Col. Morris D. Davis (“The Guantánamo I Know,” Op-Ed, June 26) describes a pristine prison where detainees are given three meals a day. What he ignores is that Guantánamo’s new prison facilities subject detainees to virtually total and continuous isolation in tiny windowless cells.

Particularly galling is Colonel Davis’s assertion that David Hicks, the only person to be convicted by military commissions, stipulated that he had been “treated properly.” In fact, this carefully worded statement, which Mr. Hicks had to make as a condition of his plea agreement, said only that he had not been “illegally treated.” This concession means little for a government that has interpreted waterboarding as compliant with United States law.

In a previous court filing, Mr. Hicks alleged being beaten repeatedly, sodomized and forced into painful stress positions while in United States custody. If one of Colonel Davis’s soldiers were picked up by Iran or North Korea and held for years in solitary confinement in a small, windowless room, do you think he would be praising the detention as “clean, safe, and humane”?

Jennifer Daskal

Senior Counterterrorism Counsel

Human Rights Watch

Washington, June 26, 2007

To the Editor:

Col. Morris D. Davis paints Guantánamo as a model, humane prison in which the rule of law reigns. If only it were so.

My clients are enduring their sixth year of detention at Gitmo. None have even been charged with a crime. Because they are unlikely to ever face trial, they will never have the opportunity to see the secret evidence against them. They will never have a chance to refute the coerced, hearsay statements that have so far justified their detention.

The government claims that it can hold them in this legal limbo for the duration of our war on terror. The extreme isolation and conditions my clients face are unbearable.

Many have been punished for disciplinary infractions by having their beards shaved. Most have been stripped of their trousers so that they cannot pray while modestly dressed. Some have been interrogated at gunpoint and threatened with rendition.

One of my clients recently tried to slit his wrists, explaining to me afterward that death would be more merciful than life here.

There is nothing “contrived” about these facts. Marc Falkoff

Chicago, June 26, 2007

The writer, an assistant professor of law at Northern Illinois University, represents 16 Yemeni detainees at Guantánamo.

To the Editor:

The Guantánamo that Col. Morris D. Davis knows is obviously not the same prison where our clients have been held without charge or trial for more than five years.

Majid Khan and Mohammed Al Qahtani have been tortured so badly that any evidence against them would be inadmissible under any legal standard.

Hundreds of men waste away in isolation in small metal cells that any regularly constituted court would reject as a violation of United States and international law. None have received a fair hearing. The results are predictable: four detainees are dead, nearly a hundred suffer from mental illness, and countless others continue to suffer abuse daily.

Guantánamo Bay is a failure. Its existence demeans and threatens our nation. It must be closed now.

J. Wells Dixon

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez

New York, June 26, 2007

The writers are staff attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

To the Editor:

Col. Morris D. Davis paints a rosy picture of Guantánamo Bay and the military commissions. I traveled there three weeks ago; the Guantánamo I came to know is starkly different from the place he describes.

The commissions fall well short of international standards, including by permitting the use of evidence obtained under coercion. The likelihood is high that someone on trial before the military commissions will have been coerced during his detention.

The Defense Department’s own investigations document that detainees have been kept awake all night, subjected to loud music and extreme hot and cold temperatures, and beaten.

Regardless of actual conditions, the arbitrary deprivation of liberty is inherently inhumane. When people can be held without being charged, and denied real opportunities to challenge their detention, America’s image and authority in the world are undermined.

Guantánamo and the military commissions are unworthy of a nation that prizes justice and aspires to lead the world.

Priti Patel

Associate Attorney

Law and Security Program

Human Rights First

New York, June 26, 2007


liberata said...

I'll add mine too, although I have no particular credentials, just a member of a newly formed local campaign against torture, affiliated with the NRCAT. I had been in the throes of writer's block, but Col. Moe's op-ed really did the trick! I couldn't sleep last night until I sent something off to the NYT!


To the editors,

Col. Morris D. Davis (The Guantánamo I Know) describes Guantánamo Bay Prison as a state of the art detention facility. However, somewhere between the "three culturally appropriate meals a day" and the excellent medical care that the prisoners receive (this latter detail, by the way, contradicted by some attorneys after visiting their clients), the colonel leaves out the most important facts.

First of all, although the new Camp 6 is touted by US authorities as a comfortable, state-of-the-art facility, Amnesty International, in its report dated April 7 of this year, has called attention to alarming "conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in which detainees are confined to almost completely sealed, individual cells, with minimal contact with any other human being" ("Cruel and Inhuman: Conditions of isolation for detainees at Guantánamo Bay").

The colonel's assertions that a fair trial can be provided by the military commissions begs the question. To date, only three detainees have even been brought before the new commissions, and this after having been transported goggled and in shackles to a place where many have been held for more than five years, while others were transferred there (by the President's own admission) from CIA secret prisons. The colonel states that "the Constitution does not extend to alien unlawful enemy combatants." However, the report issued by Seton Hall University School of Law in 2006 found that "the large majority of detainees never participated in any combat against the United States on the battlefield" ("Report on Guantanamo Detainees").

Finally, as recently as June 5 of this year, two different military judges dismissed war crimes charges against two Guantánamo Bay prisoners because they had been placed in the blanket category of unlawful enemy combatant without "an individualized determination." Contrary to the claims of the colonel, procedures such as these are a far cry from meeting the Geneva Conventions' standard of “all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

The colonel's arguments are irrelevant to say the least. Guantánamo Bay Prison was geographically located on purpose in a legal Never Never Land, beyond the normal jurisdiction of our legal system, and serious allegations of prisoner abuse and torture have been documented by international human rights organizations. Both the prison and the Military Commissions Act simply do not meet the standards of justice or human rights that America used to stand for.

-- ........
Member, Chester County (PA) Religious Campaign Against Torture

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H. Candace Gorman said...

Great letter Liberata....
thanks for losing sleep but raising your voice.