(Justice must not only be seen to be done, but must seen to be believed)
American constitutional traditions guarantee justice and fair play. But exactly what American “justice” means in times of “war on terror” has become not very difficult to define, especially as two different cultures have come into conflict. History has preserved only a small part of what American justice had done to the native Americans.
In a recent editorial the New York Times lamented that following 9/11, the nation had to do some careful thinking about the proper balance between national security and civil liberties. Instead, the Bush administration immediately claimed extraordinary new powers that severely intruded on people’s civil rights. Thousands of innocent men and women suffered.
When the Attorney General was forced to resign the US lawmakers urged a ‘Credible’ US justice chief who can restore faith in the US justice system. Bush is replacing him by Mukasey, a retired federal judge, who presided over the 1993 trial of the “Blind Sheik.” He sentenced Omar Abdel-Rahman to four life terms in prison for uttering a conditional sentence that was interpreted as “treason” under an obscure 18th century law that was shelved for more than a century. Mukasey also upholds the president’s ability to designate certain people as enemy combatants and has hinted that ordinary criminal law is not sufficient when dealing with alleged terrorists.
Another “guilty” without doing anything is Jose Padilla a Hispanic convert to Islam. He was found guilty on charges of “conspiracy” related to terrorism. His co-defendants Hassoun and al-Jayyousi were also convicted.
Jose Padilla was held in isolation for three and a half years before he got the right to a proper trial. No evidence or witnesses could be found against him. The government case depended on the fingerprints on an application form that Padilla supposedly filled to attend an al-Qaida camp. He was not shown to have EVER been in Afghanistan. There is no signature on the form. The defence attorney noticed that the fingerprints are only on the FRONT and the BACK of the application form. If Padilla had opened the form to fill it out, his finger prints would have been on the INSIDE pages too. The defence also pointed that there are THREE different handwritings on the form. Yet the form was accepted as evidence and was used to convict Padilla.
HASSOUN AND JAYYOUSI
The government wanted to prove the existence of a terrorist cell in the Miami area, so it used phone calls made by Adham Hassoun to Padilla. In turn Hassoun talked to Dr. Kifah al-Jayyousi. According to the government this shows that the three were a terrorist cell. Jayyousi and Hassoun sent charitable funds to Bosnians and Chechens in the 1990s. This “evidence” was used in the trial to show that they were helping terrorists.
The US Supreme Court reversed itself and agreed to hear two combined cases that have the potential to affect the legal fates of hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo (and an undefined number currently held by the U.S. elsewhere around the world). In Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S., two issues are at stake. First, the Court will review the provisions of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) that purport to strip Guantanamo detainees of the right to bring habeas corpus challenges to contest their imprisonment. Second, the Court will examine the Combatant Status Review Tribunals used to determine whether suspects are enemy combatants that the U.S. could continue to hold indefinitely. Many detainees fear that their attorneys are working for the U.S. government. Classified evidence allegedly makes it even harder for suspects to defend themselves.
6 MONTHS FOR LAWYER
A military jury recommended that a Navy lawyer spend six months in prison and be dismissed from the Navy for sending a human rights lawyer the names of 550 Guantánamo Bay detainees in a Valentine’s Day card. The defendant, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, was convicted Thursday at his court-martial of communicating secret information about detainees that could be used to injure the United States and three other charges of leaking information.
Libby, an adviser of Vice-President Dick Cheney, was convicted of punishable crimes. However President immediately commuted Libby’s sentence. The commutation to include no prison time was on the rationale that the sentence, though within the guidelines, was “excessive.” It raised the question of what is “reasonable.” Omer Abdel Rahman has been imprisoned in excess of four life spans for uttering words what a US jury found “treason”, though the blind sheikh was physically incapable and did not participate in any criminal activity.
Given below are a few more recent examples of “American justice”:
A group of marines rampaged through nearby homes, massacring 24 innocent people.
In Iraq and in the United States, the killings were viewed as cold-blooded vengeance.
A Marine sergeant offered gruesome testimony against a former squad leader charged with killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Haditha. The defendant was predisposed to the violence, carried it out ruthlessly and sought to cover it up. Wuterich shot five unarmed men as they stood behind a car, their hands in a surrender posture, in the moments after the bomb exploded. Wuterich said he told three marines under his command to “shoot first, ask questions later” as they prepared to attack a house.
A Marine lawyer investigating evidence against an infantryman accused of murdering three Iraqis in Haditha in 2005 has recommended dismissing all charges, citing a lack of evidence to show any wrongdoing. Sergeant Dela Cruz told prosecutors that a week before the Haditha episode, Sergeant Wuterich had reacted to an earlier roadside bombing by telling him and other marines in the unit, “If we ever get hit again, we should kill everybody in that area.”
The Marine Corps formally reprimanded a two-star general and two colonels for their failure to thoroughly investigate November 2005 massacre. The announcement against the three officers came during a hearing for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich who is charged with killing 17 people, including seven women and children.
KILLING IRAQI DETAINEES
Raymond Girouard was sentenced to 10 years in prison after court-martial finds him guilty of killing three Iraqi detainees who were freed and told to run before being shot; three others charged with deaths made plea agreements earlier.
NO TIME IN PRISON FOR MARINE
A Marine infantryman convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder an Iraqi man was sentenced by a military jury to a demotion and bad-conduct discharge, but no prison time. The sentence for the infantryman, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, was decided in less than an hour.
SOLDIER ADMITS LESSER CRIMES IN IRAQ KILLINGS
A soldier accused of acting as a lookout while other troops raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killed her, her parents and her sister, pleaded guilty to some lesser offences at his court-martial.
If the legal problems that have thwarted the prosecutors in other cases are repeated this time, there is a possibility that no marine will be convicted for what happened in Haditha. Nor is it clear whether officers higher up the chain of command will be held responsible for the inadequate initial investigation.
ABUSES IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ
In a wide range of cases involving abuses by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, prosecutions have tended to focus on enlisted men and non-commissioned officers not on officers who commanded the units. And while there have been numerous convictions, there have also been many cases in which plea arrangements allowed for lesser punishments, or in which charges were dropped or found not to be warranted.
The sole officer to face criminal charges in the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, was convicted on only one minor charge and will be reprimanded. The officer, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, faced five years in prison and dismissal from the Army, but a court-martial decided on the milder penalty and acquitted him of the charge of being responsible for cruel treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
Experts on military law said the difficulty in prosecuting the marines for murder is understandable, given that action taken in combat is often given immunity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Some scholars said the spate of dismissals has left them wondering what to think of the young enlisted marines who, illegally or not, clearly killed unarmed people in a combat zone.
The Abu Ghraib verdict was a remix of the denial of reality and avoidance of accountability that the government has used all along to avoid the bitter truth behind Abu Ghraib: The abuses grew out of President Bush’s decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions and American law in handling prisoners after Sept. 11, 2001.
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials have long claimed that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were the disconnected acts of a small number of sociopaths. It’s clear that it is not true.