To Avoid Judicial Review, Executions At Guantanamo
Yesterday the US announced that 6 Gitmo detainees would face the death penalty after bogus "trials" with unfair and untested procedures. I wrote an essay explaining why this was an outrage and a disgrace. Today, to my shock and surprise, I discovered an even greater outrage: that the US plans to conduct executions of these detainees at Gitmo so that the detainees will be denied any judicial review in the US Courts. If yesterday's news was dreadful, today's is even more cynical and and even greater disgrace.
If six suspected terrorists are sentenced to death at Guantanamo Bay for the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. Army regulations that were quietly amended two years ago open the possibility of execution by lethal injection at the military base in Cuba, experts said Tuesday.
Any executions would probably add to international outrage over Guantanamo, since capital punishment is banned in 130 countries, including the 27-nation European Union.
Conducting the executions on U.S. soil could open the way for the detainees' lawyers to go to U.S. courts to fight the death sentences. But the updated regulations make it possible for the executions to be carried out at Guantanamo.
And so the US intends to kill detainees after a "trial" before a Military Commission and not a court without permitting the possibility of review by US civilian courts. The US fears that bringing prisoners to the US might make habeas corpus available to them. How does Bushco solve this troubling problem of detainees seeking habeas corpus relief? By thumbing its nose at civilian courts, by building an execution chamber in Guantanamo, and by continuing to argue that Guantanamo is not subject to the habeas corpus jurisdiction of the US Courts.
How was the groundwork for this so stealthily accomplished?
Up until recently, experts on military law said, it was understood that military regulations required executions to be carried out by lethal injection at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
But in January 2006, the Army changed its procedures for military executions, allowing "other locations" to be used. The new regulations say that only the president can approve an execution and that the secretary of the Army will authorize the location.
"Military executions will be by lethal injection," the regulations say.
The US plan is quite simple. And it's this: do not allow the civilian United States Courts to inquire into the legality of the detainees' detention, or whether their guilt has been proved, or whether the "lethal injection" protocol is valid, or whether they are "enemy combatants," or whether they have been proved guilty, or anything else. Avoid all that potentially embarrassing judicial review. Just don't let detainees get to the US no matter what. Make sure they are killed in Guantanamo, that they never leave Guantanamo alive.
No death chamber is known to exist at Guantanamo, but Scott Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer and who is now a Duke University professor, said the military may decide to build one there. The 2006 Army regulations also call for a viewing room to the death chamber, where at least two news media representatives would be witnesses.
And so, even though the US just spent $12,000,000 on a courtroom in Guantanamo for "war crimes trials", and a death chamber has still not been built, the plan is in place to insulate the exterminations of detainees from meaningful, civilian court review.
In an irony, Bushco is trying today to quell arguments about killing the detainees:
The Bush administration has instructed U.S. diplomats abroad to defend its decision to seek the death penalty for the six men by recalling the executions of Nazi war criminals after World War II.
A four-page cable sent to U.S. embassies and obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press says that execution as punishment for extreme violations of the laws of war is internationally accepted.
The cable points to the 1945-46 Nuremberg war crimes trials in Germany. Twelve of Adolf Hitler's senior aides were sentenced to death at the trials, though not all were executed in the end.
The irony? The Nuremberg trials were entirely public. The Military Commissions remain hidden behind the wire at Guantanamo and their goal is to prevent public review of their conclusions.
What a disgrace.