Rights groups question US 9/11 Guantanamo trial pledge

By staff writers
February 12, 2008

Human rights groups and critics of extra-legal detention and the 'war on terror' have expressed deep concern about the proposed trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees on charges related to the 9/11 attacks in the USA.

Among the issues of contention raised are the use of torture, transparency, the status of evidence, and the illegality of procedures used.

Yesterday (11 Feberuary 2008), the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, promised the world that there would be fair trials for Guantanamo prisoners accused of organising the 9/11 assaults in New York and at the Pentagon in 2001.

Chertoff was speaking to the BBC after six men, including alleged plot mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were indicted on charges for which they
could face the death penalty if convicted of murder and conspiracy by controversial military tribunals.

Respected human rights groups immediately responded by questioning whether such trials could really be both fair and transparent, claiming that there is substantial evidence that the defendants were tortured during teir detention.

Obserbers point out that a confession gained from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be inherently compromised because the CIA has admitted using "water-boarding" - or simulated drowning - as an interrogation technique.

Amnesty International, the global campaigning group based in London, says that ill treatment of prisoners was "just one flaw of a commission system set up precisely to obtain convictions under lower standards than would apply in normal courts".

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organisation, also said the system lacked credibility.

"Possibly putting someone to death based on evidence obtained through water-boarding, or after prolonged periods of sleep deprivation while being forced into painful stress positions, is not the answer," declared Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch.

The charges are the first for Guantanamo inmates directly related to the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Critics say that they will be used to try to justify the detention Camp on an occupied part of Cuba, which they claim is illegal under international law.

"The US is desperate for vindication of its policies on extra-judicial detention and terror, but many expect these charges and trials to slowly unravel in much the same way as other aspects of Washington's policies in this whole are have fallen apart," a commentator told Ekklesia.

Churches in the USA and throughout the world have been among those raising vocal questions and criticisms about both the treatment meted out to prisoners held at Guantanamo, extra-judicial proceedings, and the existence of the camp.

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