Justice has been so perverted in the case of Mamdouh Habib that the question of his guilt or innocence may be better determined by throwing him into a pond: if he floats, he’s a terrorist. If he sinks, he never was in Afghanistan.
Everyone wants to see terror suspects tried in a court of law, the question of their guilt or innocence determined and those proved dangerous locked away.
Instead, what has happened has set the justice system back four hundred years to the Star Chamber of the Stuart kings, according to Jumana Musa, Amnesty International’s official observer of the Military Commission trials at Guantanamo Bay, who is visiting Australia to meet with Attorney General Philip Ruddock.
‘Minister Ruddock said to me that the Australian Government did not expect Australians to be tried by Australian standards because of the issue of US sovereignty, which is ridiculous in justice terms because they’re not even being tried by US standards’, she says.
Content to smear Mr Habib with allegations and suspicions, the Australian Government is hedging over questions of his guilt or innocence, his whereabouts at different times following his arrest and claims not to know why he was sent back from the United States. It is particularly insistent that it knows nothing about his allegations of torture.
‘The fact that the Australian government has had some access to Mr Habib through security officials from the time he was captured in Pakistan is enough to suggest that they are complicit in the treatment he received’, Ms Musa says.
Following Mamdouh Habib’s return to Australia, Minister Ruddock paid lip service to the idea that evidence obtained by torture does not have sufficient probative value to be useful in determining a person’s guilt or innocence; an idea that every mortal human being understands perfectly — if you threaten to cut/electrocute/beat/humiliate me, I’ll tell you anything.
The point he misses, and the point Jumana Musa wants everyone to understand, is that this is precisely the reason Guantanamo Bay has been set up. Guantanamo bypasses accepted standards of judicial treatment and so goes hand in hand with the intelligence and evidence that is being extracted there under duress.
‘They’re not even getting good intelligence’, she says, ‘British suspects that were detained at Guantanamo admitted to meeting with Osama Bin Laden at times that MI5 were later able to show were not possible because they were at home in the UK.’
This evidence is the material that will be tested at the Guantanamo military commissions which operate under a set of rules formulated during the First World War. As Ms Musa puts it, ‘This was at a time when the US had laws promoting racial segregation — the justice system has come a long way since then. At Guantanamo evidence can be admitted that is second or third person hearsay evidence and statements can be taken from anonymous witnesses who could have been the suspect’s interrogator’, Ms Musa says.
Already there are a number of lawsuits, on behalf of people who have been locked up in Guantanamo Bay, pending in US courts as former inmates seek redress for the treatment they received there.
‘Mamdouh Habib is entitled to be silent about his time in Afghanistan’, Ms Musa says. ‘It’s the standard way of approaching a case. You wait for the trial.’ The real trial.
The New Yorker
by JANE MAYER
The secret history of America’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program.
The Virginia Quarterly Review
A Prison Beyond the Law
By JOSEPH MARGULIES
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