Guantanamo: why are only US citizens allowed civilian legal representation?

As it stands. I cannot understand the utterly inhumane, illegal treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo.

If they are guilty - after a FAIR trial - by all means convict and punish them.

But why are they making a discrepancy between US and non US citizens? Are non US citizens somehow of less value, of less worth, owed less human rights than Americans?

There must be some legal argument behind this, I cannot believe that Bush has quite descended to the level of Saddam Hussein in terms of human justice.

I will withhold my outrage until after you give us a link.

The Mirror
The Examiner
The Guardian

Plus many, many more if you search

The issue concerns the fact that they may have to face military trials.

From the Department of Defense, March 21, 2002:

Has this changed or are your sources just blowing smoke?

I’m rather uninformed on this. However, I do recall when they first started bringing prisoners there, Rumsfeld said something about their status as illegal combatants making them special cases or something like that.

For the record, I recently heard a news report (no cite) stating that quite a few had been released after investigation cleared them of whatever sins they may have committed. Since those prisoners are suspected of being extremely dangerous, even if they were U.S. citizens, they would be in jail until trial which could quite a while if the defense needs to do investigations of its own.

I recall hearing about how during WWII, German POWs were required to build their own housing. When the POWs arrived, the guards were moved out of their barracks and into tents so that the POWs and the guards received the same quality of housing, etc. I can see why their generation is the greatest, whereas Rumsfeld’s is not.

I don’t know. There are so many sources saying the same thing. They could all be deriving from one error, but it seems unlikely that the US ABC has got it wrong.

As I understand it, special legislation has been passed since these guys were jailed.

We will have to wait and see how it plays out but if indeed some prisoners are sentenced to death in secret trials with less than full due process, America is going to pay a very high price in international relations. This is not worthy if America but of thrid world dictatorships. I hope it does not come to happen.

Posted by Istara:

Could you get us a little more info on that legislation?

What I find disturbing is the administration’s readiness to make things up as they go along. When the first Taliban leaders were shipped to Guantanamo, the White House’s position was that these were neither criminal suspects (who have some rights and protection under American law) nor prisoners of war (who have some rights and protection under international law); they fell into a third category (don’t recall if the White House ever gave that category a name), and therefore they have no rights or protection of any kind and the government can treat them however it wants. That sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

The distinction being made between US citizens and non-citizens is quite clear.

John Walker Lindh, despite being every inch an “enemy combatant”, will recieve justice in a civilian court, with all rights and priveleges pertaining thereunto. I believe he was even read his Miranda rights by the presiding CIA officer at his questioning. The non-citizens at Guantanamo (a number of whom are British, and thus no more “enemy combatants” than Lindh) will be tried by military tribunal, and so far Blair has shown no stomach for demanding that they be tried in Britain.

If US citizens were denied a proper trial I guess that any discrepancies could result in large lawsuits, especially if the death penalty were awarded.

Might not be good PR for US voters.

Who cares about the rights of other nationals, seems to be the US attitude.

“But why are they making a discrepancy between US and non US citizens? Are non US citizens somehow of less value, of less worth, owed less human rights than Americans?”

Is this not a core belief of current US foreign policy?

Blair has no stomach for anything when it comes to dealings with the US. But why should the same not apply to all prisoners at Guantanamo? AFAIK there have been no jurisdictional arguments advanced as to why these people could not be tried in a US civilian court (please correct if untrue) or failing that could be tried in an open and impartial court (that could be seen to be open and impartial). All the arguments for military tribunals have been to do with the nature of the evidence - why do these suddenly not apply to Lindh?

Very true. If the only way to defend democracy is to abandon it, then that is not victory, it is defeat.

Well… jurisdictional arguments haven’t been advanced as to why not because nobody is really arguing for them.

Relatives of European residents held at Guantanamo have been screaming about this since Lindh was transferred to the civilian justice system, but nobody is really listening.

(many are non-citizens, being recent immigrants from Muslim states, and are thus non-voters)

However, the ACLU has its hands full with the accused members of Al-Qaeda and related groups who are being tried in civilian courts, and of course has little access to the Guantanamo detainees and thus little communication with them.

Unless someone in the mainstream media makes a stink about this, chances are they’ll be serving out their sentences (or being buried, which may amount to the same thing) before legal action is taken on their behalf.


“The two British terrorist suspects facing a secret US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay will be given a choice: plead guilty and accept a 20-year prison sentence, or be executed if found guilty.
American legal sources close to the process said that the prisoners’ dilemma was intended to encourage maximum ‘co-operation’.”

"'The trial system in Guantanamo Bay allows a whole series of serious breaches of defendant rights that would mean that they could never come to trial in the US.

‘First, it allows the wiretapping of attorney-client meetings, although those wiretaps cannot actually be used in evidence. Then there is the fact that the Pentagon “Appointing Authority” - probably US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - has the ability to remove a judge at any time without giving any reason.’

Among other concerns about the 50-page Final Rule, which was published by the Department of Defence last week for governing the trials, are:

· that rules of evidence are so broad that it is left at the discretion of the trial’s presiding officer whether to allow any evidence he believes would be convincing to a ‘reasonable person’ and that that would appear to allow the admission of hearsay evidence; · that evidence can be admitted by telephone and by pseudonym; · that it is insisted that only security-screened civil attorneys be allowed to appear before the court and they can also be removed at any time."


"Stephen Jakobi, director of the British pressure group Fair Trials Abroad, said the tribunals were being “fixed” to secure convictions.

“The US department of defence will appoint the judges and prosecutors, control the defence and make up the rules of the trial,” he said. "It appears to have only one objective - to secure a conviction.

"If they were prepared to take these people to American soil and try them under normal US prosecution, the evidence wouldn’t stand up.

“The whole Cuban exercise has become a failed and cynical public relations stunt. After 18 months, six people out of over 600 are to be tried and the rules have to be fixed, otherwise there might be no convictions.”"

I can’t find the cite but yesterday’s BBC stated that even in the unlikely event that they were found not guilty, they would still be detained as illegal combattants indefinitely!

Not a pretty view of the US view of Justice, is it?

I take you mean the US media, the media here is featuring this heavily. As well as the Observer story cited above, BBC radio have been discussing it in depth and BBC TV had a live interview with Hilary Clinton this morning where she was questioned on the issue.

I don’t think it is likely that we will ever see these people in a British court though - for a start, what evidence could be presented against them? Anything that they have said since their arrest would be inadmissable.

I don’t see why they should be under British Jurisdiction. What I do believe is they should be given all the guarantees of due process.

No, I agree and I don’t think the British government/media would have any problem with these people being tried in the American judicial system or even in a non-standard court set up for the purpose, but where what we (and the US) regard as normal standards of justice are observed (and can be seen to be observed).

I don’t see this happening however, for a start the problem still remains of what evidence can be presented against. Presumably a lot of the evidence would be based on interviews with the prisonners themselves about their actions and actions of others. None of these people have had access to a lawyer or have been cautioned, so none of this evidence would be admissable. Presumably there is not a lot of other evidence (or why so long starting proceedings?).

From The Mirror:

No shit Sherlock. That’s what I call perception.

Except for the fact that the US still uses the Death Penalty (unlike more civilized European countries) and the UK Government and Media are certainly firmly against such barbaric and medieval processes being carried out by a foreign power against a British Subject.

Actually, I’m not really sure why they should be under american juridiction, either. Of course, as long as nobody knows what they’re accused of exactly, nobody can tell for sure.

Actually, if you could show they had been involved in action against the Crown or its ministers, they could still be found guilty of high treason and executed, IIRC.

They should be under British jurisdiction only because Lindh is under US civilian jurisdiction. If he were being hauled up in front of a tribunal I’d have no problem with them being tried thus either.

And yes, I was talking about the US (mainstream media) although I’ve gott my brother and sister-in-law watching and summarizing UK coverage of the issue too. Also, Baroness Symons’ protest read to me as suspiciously similar to the “for PR purposes only” protests delivered to Arab states when expatriates there are jailed for alcohol possession and such.