Saturday, 22 November 2008

Guantanamo: Will Justice Again Be Delayed?

Written by  Thomas R. Eddlem

guantanamoFederal District Court Judge Richard Leon issued a release order on November 20 for five Algerian prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The Algerians had been locked up in Guantanamo for seven years without a trial, and Leon dismissed the government claims that they stay locked up based upon one anonymous government source that the administration would not let the court question or review.

But just because a federal judge has ordered the prisoners released doesn't mean the Bush administration will release them. These same Algerians had already won the landmark Supreme Court decision Boumediene v. Bush. That didn't get them set free. Why would the ruling of a mere district judge?

A Reuters wire service article noted: "Last month, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the release of 17 Chinese Muslims, members of the Uighur ethnic group, after the government acknowledged they were not enemy combatants. Their release has been stayed, pending an appeal."

And the Uighurs were prisoners that the U.S. military itself had already concluded were innocent.

Like the innocent Uighurs, it's now public knowledge that the Algerians were mischaracterized by the Bush administration. "These are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said of prisoners at Guantanamo. President Bush and Vice President Cheney said essentially the same thing.

But the truth was far different from what the Bush administration told the American people. The five Algerians were picked up in Bosnia, not Afghanistan, and they were far from any battlefield. None were armed.

The Bush administration's tale that all the prisoners at Guantanamo were apprehended by American forces under arms in the battlefields of Afghanistan was exploded by Seton Hall Law School Professor Mark Denbeaux, who published a "Report on Guantanamo Detainees" that found only seven percent of Guantanamo detainees had been apprehended by U.S. or coalition forces on the battlefield.

It now appears that no matter how many times the Bush administration is defeated by the Supreme Court and ordered to release innocent detainees, the administration will continue to flout justice — and the law — and keep innocents imprisoned in order to try to save political face.

The chief law enforcement arm of the federal government has now obviously become the nation's largest organized crime organization. That will be a lasting legacy of the outgoing Bush administration. It will not be missed by freedom-loving Americans.

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