Friday, January 12, 2007

Guantanamo: why we need habeas corpus

With fourteen Federal Defender offices representing about 50 Guantanamo detainees, we need a quick answer to why aliens detained in the war on terror should have their cases reviewed by federal court through the writ of habeas corpus. My short answer is: Adel Hamad, Nazar Gul, and Abdul Rahim Al Ginco. These three detainees represented by our office have filed summary judgment motions based on international investigation that establishes that they are neither enemy combatants nor a danger to anyone.

A great place to start is the eight-minute video summary of the evidence in Adel’s case by attorney and investigator William Teesdale, linked under the title Guantanamo Unclassified. Send it on to anyone who still believes the fiction that Guantanamo only holds the worst of the worst. This Sudanese hospital administrator, teacher, and family man has done nothing to warrant the suffering he is undergoing as he enters his fourth year of unjust incarceration. Adel’s case is also summarized by the Center for Constitutional Rights’ website as one of the Faces of Guantanamo and in these articles in the NewYork Times and the Portland Tribune (which includes photos from the field). The summary judgment documents are available here and on the District of Columbia District Court website under Hamad v. Bush, Civil No. 05-1009-JDB (document 59)(filed October 17, 2006).

The second case involves Nazar Gul, who fled Afghanistan as a child during the Soviet occupation in the early 1980s. After about 25 years as a refugee in Pakistan, he returned to Afghanistan in April 2003 and found work with the Karzai government. While in Gardez to obtain treatment for an infected molar, he was picked up in a dragnet, apparently because of the similarity between his name and that of another man, a former mujahadeen commander. Our investigation team – AFPD Ruben Iniguez and Federal Defender Investigators Martin Caballero and William Teesdale – went to Afghanistan, then through the Khyber Pass to Pakistan, locating and videotaping witnesses including Nazar’s supervisor at work, the pharmacist who treated the molar, and the taxi driver who drove Nazar to seek treatment. The summary video submitted in support of the summary judgment motion, narrated by FPD Investigator Martin Caballero, is available as Nazar Gul video here; there is also a great article summarizing the case here in the Hispanic News. The full documentation is available from the District of Columbia District Court website under Gul v. Bush, Civil No. 05-888-CKK (document 51)(filed October 16, 2006).

In the third case, a young Syrian was tortured by the Taliban and kept under horrible conditions in the political prison in Kandahar for almost two years before he became an American prisoner in January 2002. As the result of the Taliban torture, he falsely confessed on videotape to being an American spy. When his prison was liberated after American bombing, Abdul Rahim and four other foreign nationals met with the press, the Red Cross, and others. When he was taken into American custody, videotapes that were the product of Abdul Rahim’s well-documented torture by the Taliban apparently became the basis for detention that is now entering its fifth year – seven years counting the Taliban imprisonment. His account has been verified by contemporaneous press stories, other detainees, and his family. The evidence is summarized in articles from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press. The sworn statements and other evidence is available here and from District of Columbia District Court website under Al Ginco v. Bush, Civil No. 05-1310-RJL (documents 37 and 39)(filed September 21, 2006).

These cases, as well as the cases of all the other detainees who have filed for habeas corpus relief, have been stayed pending the resolution of cases that have been before the District of Columbia Circuit Court. Many rounds of briefing have been filed, including the briefs linked here, here, and here. Federal Defenders filed an amicus brief after the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act (available here) and, more recently, filed a supplemental amicus brief in light of the Military Commissions Act (available here). Each District Court has pending motions to lift the stay to hear the summary judgment motions pending in the cases of Adel, Nazar, and Abdul Rahim.

On the fifth anniversary of the human rights issues raised by Guantanamo, we are hoping to bring the flesh and blood reality that underpins those rights before a court of law as soon as possible, whether under current law or based on the pending legislation repealing the attempted repeal of the core constitutional right to habeas corpus review. It's a good time to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words from the Birmingham Jail: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Steve Sady, Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender, Portland, Oregon


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are interested in getting more involved with this issue or want to learn more check out Project Hamad at:

The video "Guantanamo Unclassified" is also there as well

Friday, January 12, 2007 5:21:00 PM  

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