Guantanamo Update #1

Torture, how it affects the tortured, the torturer and lawyers work with them is one of the central themes of Tortured Justice Guantanamo Bay. And just as torture is a central theme in the book, it is a central theme, probably the dominant theme in the actual cases at Guantanamo.

And example of this is the recent decision by the DC Circuit in the case of US v. Bahlul. In this appeal, Bahlul who is serving a life sentence for a minimal role in the affairs of al-Qaeda sought to challenge evidence at his trial adduced through torture.

After his capture, Bahlul was taken to black sites where he was brutally tortured. One of the consequences of torture is an inability to trust and not surprisingly when Bahlul got to Guantanamo he did not trust the lawyers assigned to defend him and represented himself at trial. Predictably he was convicted and sentenced to life.

As Carol Rosenberg writes in the NY Times

                        A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a bid by a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo Bay to have a new military jury reconsider his life sentence for conspiring to commit war crimes as a propaganda chief for Al Qaeda and an aide to Osama bin Laden.

                 Earlier appeals struck down two of the three crimes for which Ali Hamza al-Bahlul was convicted in 2008. His lawyer, Michel Paradis, had argued that a new sentencing jury should be assembled at the base to hear evidence and arguments on whether his remaining conspiracy conviction deserved a lesser sentence.

               Mr. Paradis also sought reconsideration of the sentence because, a year after Mr. Bahlul’s trial, Guantánamo’s military commission system was overhauled to explicitly prohibit the use of evidence “obtained by the use of torture or by cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

             A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that the sentence should stand and that the prisoner’s lawyers brought up the question of torture too late in the appellate process.

         So, despite the fact that the jury that sentenced Bahlul thought he was guilty of three serious crimes, rather than one, and despite the fact that it is conceded that evidence derived from torture has no place in American courts, Bahlul will spend the rest of his life in prison as a result of a trial that by today's standards would be seen as manifestly unfair.

           This legal "Through the Looking Glass" result is classic GTMO. A place where law goes to die.

This is classic Guantanamo Bay.  One reviewer suggests Tortured Justice Guantanamo Bay captures the insanity of Guantanamo litigation. I am grateful for that review. But the Bahlul case demonstrates how seriously insane Guantanamo is.

  As one GTMO lawyers says: There is no statue of limiitations to punish torturers. Why should there be a limitation on challenging the effects of torture on those who were subjected to it.


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