Guantanamo Bay is more controversial than ever after producing confessions from detainees. While it is good for the Bush administration, mired in the Iraq war, the public and legal experts are uneasy and asking how these confessions were obtained.
But this is a new phase for the camp. Special military tribunals have been set up to review the status of prisoners such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who have been deemed “enemy combatants”. Last week Sheikh Mohammed admitted being the brains behind September 11 and about 30 other terrorist attacks.
Michael Ratner from the Centre for Constitutional Rights said: “The outcome has been predetermined when you go into one of these special, what I have to call, a kangaroo hearing, CSRT (Combatant Status Review Tribunal), you already have been determined to be a, quote, ‘enemy combatant’. All this, what I call a ‘rum court’, ‘rum secret court’ does is confirm that finding.”
But critics wonder if the tribunals will confirm the status of “enemy combatant” no matter what and by whatever methods they have to hand. Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University said: “The administration has been almost pathological in trying to find ways to keep these people from seeing a real judge or a real lawyer. And the reason is obvious. One is it seems pretty clear that they’ve been tortured and the President (US President George W. Bush) knew that they were being tortured, may have actually ordered their torture through techniques like “water-boarding.” Second, much of what they have said under torture would not be admissible in any real court of law.”
On the other hand, many at the sharp end of America’s “war on terror” such as Admiral Harry Harris see the necessity for the hearings: “Fifty years from now, they’ll look back on Guantanamo, they’ll say America did the right thing, they did it in the face of a lot of criticism because it was the right thing to do.” Only 14 high profile prisoners are expected to face a tribunal – there are 395 Guantanamo inmates.