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Article posted Jan 08 2012, 7:38 PM Category: Commentary Source: Glenn Greenwald Print

The evil of indefinite detention and those wanting to de-prioritize it


This Wednesday will mark the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison camp. In The New York Times, one of the camp’s former prisoners, Lakhdar Boumediene, has an incredibly powerful Op-Ed recounting the gross injustice of his due-process-free detention, which lasted seven years. It was clear from the start that the accusations against this Bosnian citizen — who at the time of the 9/11 attack was the Red Crescent Society’s director of humanitarian aid for Bosnian children — were false; indeed, a high court in Bosnia investigated and cleared him of American charges of Terrorism. But U.S. forces nonetheless abducted him, tied him up, shipped him to Guantanamo, and kept him there for seven years with no trial.

In September, 2006, the U.S. Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA) which, among other things, not only authorized the detention of accused Terrorist suspects without a trial, but even explicitly denied all Guantanamo detainees the right of habeas corpus: the Constitutionally mandated procedure to allow prisoners at least one opportunity to convince a court that they are being wrongfully held. Habeas hearings are a much lower form of protection than a full trial: the government need not convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty, but rather merely present some credible evidence to justify the imprisonment. But the MCA denied even habeas rights to detainees.

Only once the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2008 decision bearing Boumediene’s name, ruled that this habeas-denying provision of the MCA was unconstitutional, and that Guantanamo detainees were entitled to habeas corpus review, was the U.S. government finally required to show its evidence against Boumediene in an actual court. A Bush-43 appointed federal judge then ruled that there was no credible evidence to support the accusations against him, and he was finally released in May, 2009. Please first go read Boumediene’s short though gripping account of what this indefinite detention did to his life, and then consider the following points...

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