Wednesday, 28 February 2007

More stings to human rights from the courts? Padilla and GITMO

A major front in the battle between human rights activists and the United States government is the Jose Padilla case. Padilla's name has been used by both sides as a terrorist, or a victim of the US's 'war on terror'. A federal judge has now said he's sane enough to stand trial, a move that will certainly reverberate in the world of civil liberties. The judge ruled on his sanity, not the charges, which should be kept in consideration Padilla has had so much buzz, I don't know who to believe anymore — the prosecutors or those against the government. Considering the evidence affirming Padilla's insanity, I tend to disagree more with the government, not surprising considering their track-record.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has covered the Padilla case extensively.

Of all the terrifically bad ideas implemented by the Bush administration since 9/11, probably the worst have involved torture. The decision to sideline criminal prosecutions and instead focus on "alternative interrogation" methods was wrongheaded from the get-go. It was wrongheaded as a tactical matter, wrongheaded as a legal matter, wrongheaded as an ethical matter, and wrongheaded as a matter of undermining world opinion.

It is certainly wrong he was held without charge for so long — three years in a South Carolina brig — in a military facility. Who knows if he is yet another terrorist wannabe or a serious threat. I have, however, no doubt in my mind the charges against him are questionable. What does a 'terrorism' charge entitle? If Padilla was being charged with another crime, would the evidence be ample enough, or is slapping a terrorism label on someone an automatic affirmation to the jury of his guilt? It is questions like those that make this debate all the more interesting, not only for Padilla, but for the other Padillas out there, and those to come. Considering this administration's records on cases like these, Padilla might just be lucky to not be in GITMO (see below).

Another story in the same topic range is the decision by a federal appeals court that Guantanamo Bay detainees do not have the constitutional right to challenge their detention. What is going on?
Detainees in Guantánamo Bay suffered a major setback yesterday [20 Feb 2007] when a US appeals court rejected their pleas to have claims against unlawful imprisonment heard. The US justice department, as a result of the ruling, will seek to have hundreds of cases from prisoners pending in federal courts dismissed.

The decision is a victory for the Bush administration, which has had to fend off legal challenges, including a supreme court judgment, since the first of the prisoners began arriving in 2001.

And this is all for people in GITMO the US government doesn't even know are guilty! See the groundbreaking UN report for more.

This latest ruling is a sting to habeas corpus following what looks to be a gradual implementation of the horrendous Military Commissions Act.

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