Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Candace on

Candace has a new piece on the Michael Moore website ( The front page of the site features a picture of Candace in an orange jumpsuit. No, Candace hasn't been designated an "unlawful enemy combatant" (yet). As she explains in Ask me about Guantánamo, she is trying to raise awareness about the plight of detainees.

The reason I wore the jumpsuit was that I hoped people would stop and ask me about it. However it didn't happen quite that way. As you might imagine people that know me were forced to listen to my explanation, but the “masses” were keeping their distance. Most people turned their heads or averted their eyes when they saw me coming. Some crossed to the other side of the street. It might have had something to do with the headache orange color… or maybe the fact that there is a federal metropolitan correctional center a few
short blocks from my office. Anyway, I am thinking next time I will sport a giant button that says “ ask me about Guantánamo. ”

Monday, December 18, 2006

More Detainees Released

Over the weekend, the Department of Defense announced that 18 Guantánamo detainees of various nationalities had been released. One of the detainees was apparently a Libyan - unfortunately not our friend, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi.

Of course, just last week the New York Times quoted a Navy official saying “They’re all terrorists; they’re all enemy combatants.” This is the routine at GTMO; the government insists that Guantánamo holds the “worst of the worst” and yet it continues to release a fitful trickle of detainees. While it’s good news that innocent men are being freed, their long-delayed release raises questions as to why they were held without trial or charge for so many years in the first place.

The U.S. attempts to save face by insisting that “freedom doesn’t equate to innocence” and that all detainees were part of “Taliban, al-Qaida, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” But as attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan told the AP “it would simply be incredible to suggest that the United States has voluntarily released such 'vicious killers' or that such men had been miraculously reformed at Guantánamo."

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Grim news from the front....

Today, U.S. District Judge, James Robertson dismissed the Hamdan habeas petition (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, made famous by the Supreme Court decision which struck down Bush's original military commissions scheme earlier this year).

Robertson accepted the government's position that the jurisdiction-stripping provisions of the Military Commissions Act removed the court's jurisdiction over Hamdan's petition and that the nefarious MCA applies retroactively to pending petitions. This is a blow to our guys.

Judge Robertson's memo includes a review of the origins and historical development of habeas corpus, "the most usual remedy by which a man is restored again to his liberty, if he have been against law deprived of it." Unfortunately, his decision adds a sad page to that venerable history

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hot off the digital presses...

Candace has a new piece on Huffington Post (check it out).

New Links

We are building a Documents and Resources section for the blog. It is located on the column of links at the right of the webpage. So far, we've posted links to the Mark and Joshua Denbeaux's Seton Hall School of Law Report on Guantánamo Detainees, the Center For Constitutional Rights' Faces of Guantánamo and CCR's report on hunger strikes.

Chicago Council of Lawyers Rejects Key Provisions of Military Commissions Act

The Chicago Council of Lawyers has issued a statement of legislative priorities relating to enemy combatants and persons subject to extraordinary rendition.

The Council urges the new Congress to repeal any and all provisions the Military Commissions Act that deny detainees their right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus and strip the courts of jurisdiction over any claims relating to the “detention, transfer, treatment, trial or conditions of confinement" of enemy combatants.

The full statement can be read here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What Makes an Unlawful Enemy Combatant?

We have been told that Guantánamo holds "the worst of the worst." But on what evidence has the government made this determination?

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals that classify prisoners as "unlawful enemy combatants" have used the flimsiest rationales to label prisoners "threats to national security." According to the Washington Post, karate training, "knowledge of computers," owning a “casio watch” and cook service in the Algerian army have been listed as evidence that detainees endanger America.

Others are accused of fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This despite the fact that the United States armed and supplied the anti-Soviet "freedom fighters" as part of its Cold War strategy in the 1980s. Other reasons have included traveling to "Mecca, Saudi Arabia and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to visit the holy places," the fact that a prisoner “prays in his cell” and “has expressed dislike of President Bush” (uh-oh).

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

DoD Scraps Plans to Build GTMO Trial Complex

Yesterday, the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported that the Pentagon has halted its plan to build a massive trial facility in the Guantánamo Bay naval base.

In November, the Pentagon discretely posted a notice on the internet, seeking builders for what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called “a kangaroo compound.” Halliburton was rumored to be a prospective contractor for the project.

The complex, which would have accommodated thousands of detainees and personnel, had a projected cost of $100 million. It would have housed trials conducted under the legal regime of the new Military Commissions Act.

However, the dubious constitutionality of the MCA and incoming Democratic Congress now put the future of the Administration’s detention policies in question. The Pentagon attempted to bypass congressional approval for the project by citing national security concerns and its power to independently authorize emergency military construction. Nevertheless, on Friday Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on both the Military Construction and Armed Services committees, announced that the Pentagon had withdrawn its plans.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Guantánamo by the Numbers

Click image to enlarge
Courtesy of Anant P. Raut

P. Sabin Willett's Worst Moment

Yesterday, P. Sabin Willett delivered an important speech in Newburry, Massachusetts about his Worst Moment As a Lawyer.

Willett's wide-ranging remarks addressed the justifications of torture that have gained currency in certain circles, including the "ticking time bomb" scenario famously advanced by Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz. Willett writes:

Torture hypotheticals might be harmless if they were merely stupid. But it isn’t that simple. When prominent intellectuals like Dershowitz and Yoo and prominent public servants like Attorney General Gonzalez become apologists for official cruelty, when they answer the question “May we torture?” with, “It depends,” instead of, “Never,” they sew vagueness among the policy makers. “It depends” is passed from the policymakers to the generals, and from the generals to the colonels, and from the colonels to the platoon commanders, and so on until “It Depends falls into the lap of a 20 year old Marine specialist in Afghanistan, who decides to string up by his arms in a US Air Base at Bagram, Afghanistan a young Afghan called Dilawar

...Except, now it wasn’t a hypothetical any more. It is a fact that Dilawar hung, Christlike, by his wrists from a wall, and called out to God as they beat him, until, on December 10, 2002, Dilawar was dead.

Willett goes on to elaborate on the erosion of habeas corpus and the sham Combatant Status Review Tribunal process. He also describes the plight of the Uighurs (Chinese Muslims) in Guantanamo and of those "released" to a compound in Albania.

His "worst moment" comes when Abdulnasir, a young Uighur detainee, loses his last bit of faith in American justice and asks Willett to abandon his habeas case. Willett's address is a powerful indictment of Guantánamo and U.S. detention policies in the "War on Terror." It is well worth the read.

A Victory both Great and Small

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler entered an order in Al Razak v. Bush that was a breath of fresh air for Guantánamo habeas counsel. The government’s position was that Mr. Al Razak, who had not signed a form asking for legal representation also did not have a proper “next friend” and that the case should be dismissed. "Next Friends" are other detainees who have asked their own attorney to file a habeas petition on behalf of a detainee who does not have a lawyer. No lawyer can meet with a detainee without a "protective order" being entered that outlines the rules for counsel visit and handling of "classified" information. The government tries to throw out the "next friend" cases before an attorney can get the protective order entered and meet with the detainee to ascertain if they want an attorney.

However, Judge Kessler recognized the following to be true of Mr. Al Razak and his situation:

He likely does not know what the term Habeas Corpus means.

He has no criminal charges against him.

He has every reason to distrust his captors and keepers.

He has every reason to rely on the friendship with other detainees who speak his language and suffer the same disabilities….

He has every reason to challenge his confinement.

He cannot communicate with his attorney, nor does he even know at
present that he has an attorney….

In light of these facts there can be little doubt in the Court’s mind that Mr. Al Razak is not able to challenge the legality of his detention.

Kessler’s order denied the government’s motion to show cause and entered the protective order that will allow Mr. Al Razak’s attorneys to access their client.

This order is good news for Mr. Al Razak and a victory for his lawyers. However, as with other Guantánamo cases, Judge Kessler granted the government’s motion to stay the proceedings until the completion of related appeals. These stays have delayed justice for hundreds of detainees as Kessler herself seemed to recognize,
The longer those appellate proceedings drag on, the more problematic it becomes as to whether a stay serves the interest of justice. It is often said that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Nothing could be closer to the truth with reference to the Guantánamo Bay cases.
Still, in the bleak world of Guantánamo litigation, Kessler’s order and the frankness of its language came as a ray of sunshine.

Monday, December 4, 2006

December 10th-11th: Dress in Orange

On December 10th and 11th, in honor of International Human Rights Day, take a stand against the legalization of torture. Spend the whole day wearing what Guantanamo detainees have to wear everyday. Dress in the orange jumpsuit, hood, shackles, etc. Wear it to school. Wear it to work. Wear it to church or religious services.

Link to the organizers' website here.

Al-Ghizzawi's Medical Records

Mr. Al-Ghizzawi has been held in Guantánamo since 2002. He is a sick man and the medical staff at Guantánamo have failed to properly address his condition (read details here). Candace had been fighting hard for access to his medical records. Unfortunately, the judge in Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's case denied the motion for access to records on the grounds that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi had failed to demonstrate that he would otherwise suffer "irreperable harm." This puts Al-Ghizzawi in an impossible situation: he cannot demonstrate that he will suffer irreperable harm without having access to his medical records, and yet he cannot access his medical records unless he establishes that he will suffer irreperable harm. The judge's order has been appealed to the D.C. Circuit.

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

Sunday, December 3, 2006


Welcome to The Guantánamo Blog. This weblog will provide updates on developments concerning the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, with a focus on H. Candace Gorman and her ongoing work representing two prisoners being held there without charge.

Recently, Candace has written several pieces for Huffington Post. In Why I am Representing a "Detainee" at Guantánamo, Candace describes how she came to represent Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, a Libyan man who is gravely ill and may be suffering from serious liver disease. The legal battle concerning Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's inadequate treatment is one of Candace's chief concerns at the moment.

In The Great Writ, Candace denounces the Bush Administration and the (out-going) Republican Congress' assault on Habeas Corpus, a venerable safeguard of liberty and a cornerstone of the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition.

Last month, Candace traveled to a U.S. Government secret facility to view the classified proceedings of Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), a tribunal that determines whether or not a prisoner is an "unlawful enemy combatant." Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was subjected to a CSRT and, having no ties to terrorism, was classified as a non enemy-combatant. Mysteriously, this determination was overturned by the powers that be and, five weeks later, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was designated an unlawful enemy combatant by a new CSRT. He was never informed of the new tribunal and never met his new appointed "personal representative."
Candace was disturbed by what she found (and did not find) in Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's Combatant Status Review. She recounts the Kafkasque experience in Secrets of the War Criminals.