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Old 05-24-2003, 01:52 AM   #1
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Amnesty International

Dear Secretary of Defence,

I am very much concerned about reports that several children under the age of 18 are among the more than 600 foreign detainees being held in the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay without having access to lawyers or relatives. They have been denied their right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a court of law.

Detainees are reportedly confined to tiny cells for virtually 24 hours a day and are only allowed to exercise in shackles for only 15 minutes twice a week. In my eyes such conditions amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – and they are even more shocking when applied in the case of juveniles, who, under international law, should be held in detention only as a last resort and for the minimum of time possible.

As you yourself have said in a press briefing on April 25, 2003 “ We care what the world thinks”. I therefore call on your government to determine the status of all detainees and to grant them immediate access to the courts, lawyers and to their families.
Special attention should be given to the rights of the children, who should be treated in accordance with international law and standards which require that the general and special needs of children be fully recognized and met.

Any detained child should be promptly charged and tried within a reasonable time or released.

I thank you for your serious consideration of this important issue,
sincerely


To be sent to:

Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
USA
E-mail: public@defenselink.mil
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Old 05-24-2003, 03:34 PM   #2
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Thank you for posting this, ...

Read you,....
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Old 05-25-2003, 12:22 PM   #3
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Sure Rono!

Read you.
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Old 05-26-2003, 01:26 PM   #4
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I really encourage everyone to send a letter like this to the relevant officials. It's not an issue of being pro-war or anti-war, pro-American or anti-American: it's a simple issue of defending human rights. Surely we can all agree on that.

Thanks for posting, hiphop.
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Old 05-26-2003, 10:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees
Surely we can all agree on that.
I don´t know. I would like the opinions of some of the (so called) "conservative" members of this forum.

Would you think Amnesty International publishes fake horror stories? Or do you sign this letter and send it to Donald Rumsfeld?
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Old 05-28-2003, 04:25 PM   #6
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I was asked to come here and post my opinion. I am not sure posting my opinion will do anything to change someone's mind on this topic. But since I was invited to respond I will speak my mind.

I have very little sympathy for the detainees. I have struggled within myself on this topic but I do not think I agree with the letter. Having served in the service and been through how to properly detain and meet the standards of the Geneva Convention, I believe they are being treated fairly in the camp. I would not sign this letter.

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Old 05-28-2003, 04:52 PM   #7
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Dreadsox,
what do you think about the fact that they're detaining children under the age of 18? International law is pretty clear on this issue.

*Fizz.
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Old 05-28-2003, 08:38 PM   #8
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As this is dragging on, and these people are there for a longer and longer time, I am more bothered by it. As for there being people under the age of 18, I am sorry, but their organization attacked my country. They made poor choices. When international law is modified to give consequences to nations that harbor terrorist organizations and defines what to do with them, I suppose we can go from there. As of now, they are being treated much better than the people that were in the planes and in the buildings on 9/11.

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Old 05-29-2003, 05:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
As for there being people under the age of 18, I am sorry, but their organization attacked my country.
Who says? I mean, how do you know those children belong to Al-Qaeda? Nobody is allowed to have contact with those children, nobody can investigate it and nothing is brought forward to those children. They might just be some kids who were playing in Kabul, or somewhere else in Afghanistan, and were captured just by being there. Or by looking strangely at the US military. Or by throwing rocks at them.
I'm not saying they cannot be members of Al-Qaeda, it's just that nobody knows or is allowed to investigate it.

Quote:
As of now, they are being treated much better than the people that were in the planes and in the buildings on 9/11.
And the persons who shot Islamic looking persons in the aftermath of 9/11 are being treated much better than the people who are in Guantano Bay.

C ya!

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Old 05-29-2003, 06:55 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Popmartijn


And the persons who shot Islamic looking persons in the aftermath of 9/11 are being treated much better than the people who are in Guantano Bay.

Somehow I fail to see what this has to do with the secretary of defence and the amnesty letter. Again, the prisoners there are being treated within their rights. Have some mistakes been made, yes. The soldiers who have made them are being punished.

AS to the we do not know if they are Al-Qaeda, that will be determined when they are put on trial. I have already said that I am not happy about the legnth of time it is taking to put them on trial.

Your comment above, upsets me. It has nothing at all to do with the letter, or my opinions. Again, I have not commented in this thread because I knew my opinion was not going to be liked. I was invited to express my opinion directly by hiphop from another thread. The Secretary of Defence, and I are not responsible for the actions of a few ignorant people. I think you would agree with that statement. Nor do I belong in a terrorist organization that has been killing citizens of another country at home and abroad for years.

I would like to see international law address this topic. The problkem is that the law is very vague as to how to classify members of an organization that have attacked another country. The law is based on sovereign nations. These people are not members of the military of any sovereign nation, they are terrorists. I would willingly sign a letter saying we need to get some laws on the books that provide guidlelines as to how to deal with this type of situation in the future. AS of now, I think we are doing the best we can.

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Old 05-29-2003, 07:24 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
Somehow I fail to see what this has to do with the secretary of defence and the amnesty letter. Again, the prisoners there are being treated within their rights. Have some mistakes been made, yes. The soldiers who have made them are being punished.
In my eyes my comment has as much relevancy to the amnesty letter as the comment that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are better off than the persons who were in the hijacked airplanes. BTW, I was not referring to soldiers on duty in Afghanistan, I was referring to the persons who shot a gas station owner somewhere in the USA just because he was/looked Islamic and more of those incidents that happened in the weeks after 9/11.

Quote:
AS to the we do not know if they are Al-Qaeda, that will be determined when they are put on trial. I have already said that I am not happy about the legnth of time it is taking to put them on trial.
Yes, an eventual trial will hopefully determine fairly whether or not they are Al-Qaeda, etc. I include the words 'hopefully' and 'fairly', not just because of the length of time for putting them on trial, but also because they are not allowed to have access to lawyers or anyone else representing them. This is also partly what made me state the comment you cited.
The murderer of the gas station owner did have access to a lawyer. He is allowed visitations by family, etc. He isn't isolated just because of his crime and I think he has more chance to exercise than the 15 minutes twice a week which the suspects (which include children) in Guantanamo Bay are subjected to.

Quote:
Your comment above, upsets me. It has nothing at all to do with the letter, or my opinions.
It wasn't my intention to upset you (or anyone else reading this thread) and I'm sorry if it was because of misinterpreting my comment.

Quote:
The Secretary of Defence, and I are not responsible for the actions of a few ignorant people. I think you would agree with that statement.


True, but are the children held in Guantanamo Bay also responsible for the actions of the 9/11 terrorists. Yes, they belong to that organisation, but how well could they distinguish/judge the actions of that organisation? The Amnesty International letter specifically talks about the children held there, not the adults.
I have to say I don't know international law that well with regards to the treatment of children that belong to a hostile organisation.

C ya!

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Old 05-29-2003, 03:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox


Again, I have not commented in this thread because I knew my opinion was not going to be liked. I was invited to express my opinion directly by hiphop from another thread.

The Secretary of Defence, and I are not responsible for the actions of a few ignorant people. I think you would agree with that statement. Nor do I belong in a terrorist organization that has been killing citizens of another country at home and abroad for years.

I would like to see international law address this topic. The problkem is that the law is very vague as to how to classify members of an organization that have attacked another country. The law is based on sovereign nations. These people are not members of the military of any sovereign nation, they are terrorists. I would willingly sign a letter saying we need to get some laws on the books that provide guidlelines as to how to deal with this type of situation in the future. AS of now, I think we are doing the best we can.

Peace
Thank you for expressing your opinion.

It is true that the Sec. of Defense (let alone you personally, Dreadsox!) is not responsible for terrorists, and do not belong to a terrorist org.

I also can understand that you don´t have any sympathy for the terrorists. But this letter is not asking for sympathy for them. This letter is simply asking:


"I therefore call on your government to determine the status of all detainees and to grant them immediate access to the courts, lawyers and to their families.
Special attention should be given to the rights of the children, who should be treated in accordance with international law and standards which require that the general and special needs of children be fully recognized and met.

Any detained child should be promptly charged and tried within a reasonable time or released."

Note that it doesn´t say: the children should go free. It says "Any detained child should be promptly charged and tried within a reasonable time or released." It doesn´t say "Every member of the terrorist organisation", or "Every person in Guantanámo", it just says that keeping children who weren´t charged and tried in those circumstances is inhumane and cruel.

I don´t hear much in the media. Any proof that the people who were arrested belong to a terrorist organization, is missing. Sure, I could trust in the government and Secret Services to make those decisions, but only to a certain degree, because as we all know, often enough there have been mistakes (people who were arrested and were found not guilty) - no system works perfectly.

I agree that international law should address the topic of how persons of terrorist organizations should be classified, better today than tomorrow. I am not that familiar with international law in that respect.

Anyway, the U.S. administration has been using the phrase "War on terrorism". So, even if we know that it is not (judicially) correct (or exact) to use this term, because war per definitionem happens between two states and not between states and (terror) organizations, I can only quote the Geneva Convention that doesn´t explicitly deal with terrorism:

"Article 5
Where, in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity, and in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be."

(...)

"Article 10
The provisions of the present Convention constitute no obstacle to the humanitarian activities which the International Committee of the Red Cross or any other impartial humanitarian organization may, subject to the consent of the Parties to the conflict concerned, undertake for the protection of civilian persons and for their relief."

"Article 24
The Parties to the conflict shall take the necessary measures to ensure that children under fifteen, who are orphaned or are separated from their families as a result of the war, are not left to their own resources, and that their maintenance, the exercise of their religion and their education are facilitated in all circumstances. Their education shall, as far as possible, be entrusted to persons of a similar cultural tradition.

The Parties to the conflict shall facilitate the reception of such children in a neutral country for the duration of the conflict with the consent of the Protecting Power, if any, and under due safeguards for the observance of the principles stated in the first paragraph.

They shall, furthermore, endeavour to arrange for all children under twelve to be identified by the wearing of identity discs, or by some other means."

"Article 27
Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.

Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.

Without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, religion or political opinion.

However, the Parties to the conflict may take such measures of control and security in regard to protected persons as may be necessary as a result of the war."

"Article 31
No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

Article 32
The High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.

Article 33
No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

"Article 89
Daily food rations for internees shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep internees in a good state of health and prevent the development of nutritional deficiencies. Account shall also be taken of the customary diet of the internees.

Internees shall also be given the means by which they can prepare for themselves any additional food in their possession.

Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to internees. The use of tobacco shall be permitted.

Internees who work shall receive additional rations in proportion to the kind of labour which they perform.

Expectant and nursing mothers and children under fifteen years of age shall be given additional food, in proportion to their physiological needs.

Article 90
When taken into custody, internees shall be given all facilities to provide themselves with the necessary clothing, footwear and change of underwear, and later on, to procure further supplies if required. Should any internees not have sufficient clothing, account being taken of the climate, and be unable to procure any, it shall be provided free of charge to them by the Detaining Power.

The clothing supplied by the Detaining Power to internees and the outward markings placed on their own clothes shall not be ignominious nor expose them to ridicule.

Workers shall receive suitable working outfits, including protective clothing, whenever the nature of their work so requires."

So, that´s a lot of reading.

Anyway, the problem is centered around the issue whether terrorists should and can be treated as war criminals.

I have found an interesting article about that on

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20010928.html

"APPROPRIATE JUSTICE FOR TERRORISTS:
Using Military Tribunals Rather Than Criminal Courts
By JOHN DEAN
----
Friday, Sep. 28, 2001

President Bush and senior administration officials have repeatedly stated that combating terrorism will call for new thinking. We are in a non-traditional war against an unconventional enemy — an enemy who takes abusive advantage of our Constitutional freedoms, including our criminal justice system.

On September 24, Newsweek reported that, to bring terrorists to justice, Department of Justice lawyers are rethinking traditional methods. "Perhaps the most startling idea under examination would be a new presidential order authorizing secret military tribunals to try accused terrorists," the magazine reports.

This may be the time for military tribunals.

Crona and Richardson's Work on Tribunals

Military tribunals were also recommended following the earlier terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center, by Spencer J. Crona and Neal A. Richardson, writing in the 1996 Oklahoma City University Law Review. Crona, a former newspaper editor and attorney in Denver, Colorado, and Richardson, a Deputy District Attorney in the same city, collaborated in presenting a case for such proceedings, which I have highlighted below.

While I have drawn on Crona's and Richardson's scholarly analysis, and considered arguments in this column, I have not been able in this space to do it justice, and it is very much worth reading in its entirety. Indeed, I found the article so helpful that I also passed it on to friend at the Department of Justice, requesting that he pass it on to those currently examining the potential of military tribunals.

A World War II Decision Approving the Use of Military Tribunals

President Lincoln made extensive use of military tribunals during the Civil War, and President Roosevelt used them during World War II.

For example, during the Civil War, Confederate army captain Robert C. Kennedy was captured, tried, and convicted by a military commission. Wearing a civilian disguise, he had sought to disrupt the Union war effort by setting fire to New York City.

Kennedy's case was one of several cited by the U.S. Supreme Court when it addressed this issue in Ex Parte Quirin, which was decided in 1942 in the midst of World War II. In Quirin, the Court confirmed the authority of Congress and the President to try Nazi terrorists operating in the United States by military commissions.

Quirin was one of eight Nazi saboteurs who had crossed the Atlantic in a German submarine: four Nazi operatives landed on Long Island, New York and another four at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The FBI arrested both groups, and turned them over to the military, which promptly tried them.

The Nazis sought to halt the proceedings with habeas corpus petitions, claiming that since the state and federal criminal courts were available, the military tribunal had no jurisdiction. The Supreme Court rejected the claims, and let the military tribunal's convictions of the men for violating the laws of war, spying and conspiracy stand. The Supreme Court noted:

The … enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed … to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.

A Post-Civil War Decision Against Military Tribunals

In the course of deciding Quirin, the Supreme Court rejected the precedent of Ex Parte Milligan, on which the Nazi saboteurs had relied.

The high Court's landmark ruling in Ex Parte Milligan was issue in 1866, following the Civil War. Milligan had been convicted by a military commission of violating the laws of war by planning to form a secret military organization to seize an arsenal, release Confederate prisoners, arm them, and then join with others to invade, on behalf of the Confederacy, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Sentenced to be hanged for his crimes, Milligan appealed. Five justices held that Congress did not have authority to create military commissions when state courts were open and available. They also found that Milligan had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial when he was tried before the commission.

Four justices concurred with the majority ruling, but on different grounds. They rejected the majority's contentions that Congress did not have the power to create such military tribunals, and that such tribunals were bound to follow the Bill of Rights.

Chief Justice Rehnquist's Views

No less an authority than Chief Justice William Rehnquist has addressed the cases of Ex Parte Quirin and Ex Parte Milligan, and the question of military tribunals. The Chief Justice has been prescient before (He wrote a book about impeachment long before he found himself presiding at President Clinton's Senate trial). Now he has turned out to be prescient again: In 1998, he wrote and published All The Laws But One: Civil Liberties in Wartime.

In the book, Rehnquist examines Milligan at some length. Rehnquist notes that the government, which at the time — 1866 — had yet to create the office of Solicitor General, had little experience presenting cases to the Supreme Court. Mr. Milligan, on the other hand, was extremely well represented. In making this contrast, Rehnquist implies that had the government done a better job, it would not have lost the case.

The Chief Justice also reads the ruling in Milligan as limited. He notes that some 75 years later in Quirin "the Court concluded that Milligan … was a non-belligerent, not subject to the law of war."

Finally, if these comments left any doubt about Rehnquist's skepticism about Milligan, Rehnquist resolves it. He writes: "One may fully agree with the rather disparaging but nonetheless insightful argument of Jeremiah Black [attorney for Milligan] in the Milligan case — soldiers are no more occupationally trained to conduct trials than are sailors or sheep drovers — and yet believe that Congress should be able to provide for trial of defendants by a judge without a jury in a carefully limited class of cases dealing with national security in wartime."

Congressional Action Is Necessary

In short, if the most recent decision (Quirin) and the views of the Court's Chief Justice are to be our guide, there appears to be no Constitutional prohibition on the use of military tribunals to address terrorism — especially terrorism of the scope of the September 11 attacks, and terrorism described by the President as an act of war. However, creation of such tribunals would require an act of Congress — as Crona and Richardson recognize.

Congress should pass such an act — in part because terrorism is very different from other crime. For one thing, existing international laws prohibit such activities. As Crona and Richardson note, when terrorist acts of aggression target innocent civilians, they are not "legitimate acts of war under international law, but rather must be regarded as war crimes or crimes against humanity." The 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks on civilians. And the Geneva Protocol II expressly prohibits "acts of terrorism."

Nevertheless, we have so far treated terrorist as ordinary criminals — charging them with common law crimes, and give them all the protections of our criminal justice system. The 1993 World Trade Center attack, for example, led to indictments that were tried before a judge in the Southern District of New York.

Granted, Congress has not declared war in authorizing President Bush "to use all necessary and appropriate force against" those involved with "the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." But it would trivialize what was done to treat it as ordinary crime.

Using military tribunals, rather than the criminal justice system, to bring such terrorists to justice merits serious consideration at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our Criminal Justice System Is Not Appropriate For Terrorists

Crona and Richardson point out that for this type of crime, military tribunals, which are composed of a panel of trained military officers who serve as jury and judge, have many practical advantages over our criminal justice system, which was never designed to deal with war crimes or crimes against humanity. Such tribunals are more efficient, less costly, and more likely to provide swift and sure justice.

As examples, they cite the two criminal trials of the terrorists indicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The first trial required five months of testimony, 207 witnesses, and 1,003 exhibits — not to mention many days of legal arguments and four days of jury deliberations. The second trial, involving the remaining defendants, required over eight months, 200 witnesses, and hundreds of exhibits.

Most troublingly, however, such criminal trials placed the lives of the American citizens who serve as jurors, and their families, in jeopardy of harm from other terrorists. While jurors are purportedly anonymous, in fact they could easily end up living in fear, which would not be unfounded. Witnesses in such cases are, if necessary, placed in the federal witness protection program.

None of these problems exist with military tribunals. Trials without juries are always more efficient. And military officers have accepted the risk of personal harm as a concomitant of their work.

Our criminal justice system, which requires a unanimous finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by twelve jurors, Crona and Richardson note, "is designed to err on the side of letting the guilty go free rather than convicting the innocent. However, when this nation is faced with terrorist attacks that inflict mass murder or hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in a single instance, we can no longer afford procedures that err so heavily on the side of freeing the guilty. Protection of society and the lives of thousands of potential victims becomes paramount."

Military Tribunals Are Not Biased Or Unfair Proceedings

Based on historical evidence, Crona and Richardson argue that using such a military proceeding does not mean stacking the deck against terrorists. To the contrary, they note that the WW II war crimes trials with military tribunals resulted in many acquittals, and point out that for the 177 Nazi officials tried by American military judges, the tribunals issued only 12 death sentences.

In a military tribunal, rules of evidence are not applicable, nor necessary, because trained military jurists can, like other judges, weigh all the evidence. Exclusionary rules, which preclude using evidence improperly obtained (a means for our courts to police the police), have no place in a military proceeding. Thus, before a military tribunal, a known terrorist could not walk because of a legal technicality, such as the arresting officer's failure to give him a Miranda warning.

"The primary purpose of any adjudicative proceeding where a person is accused of a crime," Crona and Richardson write, "is to find the truth as to that person's factual guilt or innocence. The search for the truth in the terrorism arena will be enhanced by the military commission framework." But these authors, and other proponents of military tribunals, are not suggesting that the accused terrorists be denied due process. To the contrary.

Crona and Richardson write: "The pre-eminent question with due process always is, given the circumstances, what is due process?" They believe that military tribunals "provide the process due to those accused of committing terrorist war crimes." They would have the right to counsel, to confront witnesses, dispute evidence, and present evidence in their defense. These authors are merely saying that in times of war, such military proceedings are fair and just.

Those accused of terrorist activities are due no more. If it is necessary to draw a bright line to protect American citizens, the authors suggest (but do not recommend) limiting the jurisdiction of military tribunals to alien terrorists.

Would Terrorists Be Denied Civil Liberties?

The last chapter of Chief Justice Rehnquist's book on civil liberties in wartime is entitled "Inter Arma Silent Leges." According to Black's Law Dictionary, this means, "in times of war the laws are silent." Rehnquist observes that "there remains a sense that there is some truth to [this] maxim." He explains why.

Rehnquist says it is a simple "truism: in time of war the government's authority to restrict civil liberty is greater than in peacetime. … Quite apart from the added authority that the law itself may give the President in time of war, Presidents may act in ways that push their legal authority to its outer limits, if not beyond."

He adds that because judges are often loath to interfere with wartime activities, they often defer decisions until hostilities end. "If the decision is made after hostilities have ceased, it is more likely to favor civil liberty than if made while hostilities continue." To illustrate his point, he contrasts the pro-tribunal Quirin ruling, which was decided at the height of WW II, and the anti-tribunal Milligan holding, which was made after the Civil War had ended.

In short, the Chief Justice tells us that terrorists — like others — will not enjoy the same civil liberties during a war as in peace. Rehnquist concludes that while the laws are not silent in time of war, "they will speak with a somewhat different voice."

In this war, a new law should be passed — a law authorizing the use of military tribunals for suspected terrorists. If many terrorists are involved — as now appears the case — it is difficult to conceive of a more appropriate procedure to bring them to justice."
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Old 05-29-2003, 03:51 PM   #13
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Having done some more research, I have found an interesting article/ letter dealing with this issue:

http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/04/us042403ltr.htm

U.S.: Guantanamo Kids at Risk

(New York, April 24, 2003) The detention of children at Guantanamo poses grave risks to their well-being, Human Rights Watch said today, in response to the U.S. military's acknowledgement that at least three children, ages 13 to 15, are among the detainees at Guantanamo. In a letter sent today to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Human Rights Watch urged the United States to strictly observe international children's rights standards regarding the detainees.

"Secretary Rumsfeld called those detained at Guantanamo the 'worst of the worst,'" said Jo Becker, child rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "It's hard to believe that a 13 year old could fit that category."
A Pentagon spokesperson has said that the children are being questioned to obtain possible intelligence.

"Simply providing the United States with military intelligence does not justify the detention of children," said Becker. "If these children have committed offenses, they should be provided with counsel and adjudicated in accordance with standards of juvenile justice. Otherwise, they should be released immediately."

The conditions at Guantanamo pose particularly serious risks to children. Child detainees should never be held together with adults, but because there are so few children, they are held for long periods in virtual isolation. They have no access to lawyers, limited or no access to their families, and are subject to interrogation.

Human Rights Watch raised a particular concern that isolated conditions are especially conducive to suicidal behavior. Studies have shown that children held in adult jails, where they are more likely to be held in separate, secure housing and spend substantial periods of time in isolation, are up to eight times more likely to commit suicide than those held in facilities specifically for juveniles.

"There have already been as many as 25 suicide attempts reported at Guantanamo," said Becker. "Children at Guantanamo are at even higher risk, particularly because of their relative isolation."

Human Rights Watch noted that the children held at Guantanamo may have participated in armed conflict in Afghanistan as child soldiers with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

Under international humanitarian law, under no circumstances should children under the age of 15 be recruited or used to participate in hostilities. A treaty ratified by the United States in December 2002 establishes a higher age of 18 as the minimum age for any compulsory recruitment or participation in armed conflict. It also obliges governments to assist in the demobilization and rehabilitation of former child soldiers.

"The use of children as soldiers is an appalling abuse," said Becker. "These children are entitled to rehabilitation, not indefinite detention."

April 24, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
Washington DC 20301



Dear Secretary Rumsfeld,
Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned at recent reports that at least three children, ages thirteen to fifteen, are among the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. We assume that like adult detainees, these children are unable to talk with attorneys, have extremely limited, if any, contact with their families, are subject to interrogation, and are being held indefinitely.

We are writing to urge the U.S. government to strictly observe international standards governing juvenile justice and children deprived of their liberty, and the U.S.' legal obligations under the recently-ratified optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

International standards recognize that children under the age of eighteen are a particularly vulnerable group, and entitled to special care and protection because they are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally. These standards include certain key principles, including the use of detention only as a measure of last resort, separation of children from adults, the right of children to maintain contact with their families, and the right to a prompt determination of their case.

In addition, new international standards binding on the United States recognize the special situation of children who have been recruited or used in armed conflict, and their rights to prompt demobilization, and rehabilitation and reintegration assistance.

Detention of Children:

A broad international consensus recognizes that for children (generally defined as persons under the age of eighteen), detention should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. This consensus is reflected in international standards including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, and the U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty. These standards stipulate that alternatives to detention should be used whenever possible, ideally in a community-based setting.

According to recent reported statements by a U.S. military spokesperson, the children held at Guantanamo are being interrogated because they "have potential to provide important information." The possibility of providing the United States with military intelligence would certainly not justify the continued detention of these children.

If the children have allegedly committed specific offenses, they should be provided with counsel, and their situation adjudicated in an appropriate jurisdiction according to established juvenile justice standards. If the children are not being charged, they immediately should be returned to the custody of their parents or guardians. In all cases, the child's best interests should be a primary consideration.

In general, any children detained solely because they are believed to have intelligence information of interest for the United States should be promptly questioned in their home country, and immediately released.

Risks to Children's Well-Being:

U.S. authorities have stated that the children detained at Guantanamo are being held separately from adult detainees, in accordance with international standards. Nonetheless, the conditions at Guantanamo may pose serious risks to children. These conditions are believed to include:


-long periods of time in virtual isolation due to their very small numbers;
-limited or no access to their families or legal counsel;
-interrogation without the benefit of family members or legal counsel;
-lack of staff trained in the rights and special needs of children;
-indefinite detention, with no clear information regarding the timing of their release.
All of these factors are particularly detrimental to the well-being of children and violate internationally accepted standards for the protection of children. Studies have shown that isolated conditions are especially conducive to suicidal behavior, and that children held in adult jails (where they are more likely to be held in separate, secure housing and spend substantial periods of time in isolation) are up to eight times more likely to commit suicide than those held in facilities that are designed specifically for juveniles. The psychological impact of their detention environment is of particular concern for children held at Guantanamo, given reports that as many as twenty-five suicide attempts already have been made by detainees at Guantanamo. Children, as a particularly vulnerable group, may be at even higher risk.

Contact with Family:
International standards related to children guarantee the child's right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits while deprived of their liberty, except in exceptional circumstances. Where there is no evidence that contact with family members would be detrimental to a child, they should under no circumstances be held incommunicado. Contact with family and opportunities to maintain family relationships can be crucial to the well-being of detained children, and a significant factor in preparing them for their eventual return to society. The U.S. government should make all feasible attempts to trace the family members of child detainees, and to facilitate regular contact.

Resolving Children's Cases Expeditiously:
International standards recognize that a child's case should be resolved expeditiously and without unnecessary delay. The imperative for timely action on a child's case is even more pronounced when the child is detained. Because of their relative immaturity, children often perceive time differently than adults, and periods of detention may seem even longer to a child than an older detainee, with consequent negative impact on their psychological health and well-being. This is particularly the case in circumstances where they may be isolated from their family and community, and denied educational, recreational and other programs appropriate for children.

Obligations and Considerations Regarding Former Child Soldiers:

The children held at Guantanamo may have participated in armed conflict in Afghanistan. An international consensus reflected in both international humanitarian law and international human rights law stipulates that under no circumstances should children under the age of fifteen be recruited into armed forces or be used to participate in hostilities. Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions, which represents customary law, states in article 77.3 that if despite these prohibitions, children under the age of fifteen take a direct part in hostilities and fall into the power of an adverse party (in this case, the United States), they are still entitled to special protections, including whatever "care and aid they require," whether or not they are prisoners of war.

International law has already recognized the need for stronger protections for children involved in armed conflict. On December 23, 2002, the United States became a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Protocol prohibits all forced recruitment of children under the age of eighteen, and requires states parties to take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces that are under the age of eighteen do not participate directly in hostilities.

Under the protocol, the United States also has responsibilities to assist in the demobilization and rehabilitation of former child soldiers. Article 7 states that states parties "shall cooperate in the implementation of the present Protocol, including in the prevention of any activity contrary thereto and in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons who are victims of acts contrary thereto."

These standards recognize the frequent abuse of children as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Whether "voluntarily" or forcibly recruited, the use of children in armed conflict is now widely recognized as detrimental to the development and well-being of children, and a serious abuse of their rights. In responding to this phenomenon, the rehabilitation of former child soldiers is paramount, with appropriate assistance, including family reunification, counseling, educational and vocational training, to aid their reintegration into society. If the child detainees at Guantanamo have participated in armed conflict, the United States should facilitate such assistance without delay.

Additional Child Detainees:

Recent reports have focused only on the presence of children under the age of sixteen among the detainees at Guantanamo. However, the accepted international definition of a child is any person under the age of eighteen. All children under the age of eighteen are entitled to the special protections and considerations outlined above. The United States should immediately clarify the exact number and ages of all children being detained at Guantanamo.

In addition, we also remind the United States of its obligation under international humanitarian law regarding alleged Taliban fighters. Because the international armed conflict between the United States and the former government of Afghanistan ended with the installation of the government of Hamid Karzai, the United States no longer has the authority to hold former Taliban fighters, including any such fighters that may be children. In such cases, they should immediately be repatriated.

We urge the United States immediately to make clear the steps that it is taking to comply with international standards relevant to the children detained at Guantanamo, including the specific concerns outlined above.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Lois Whitman
Executive Director
Children's Rights Division



http://www.guardian.co.uk/internatio...941875,00.html



US detains children at Guantanamo Bay

Staff and agencies
Wednesday April 23, 2003

The US military has admitted that children aged 16 years and younger are among the detainees being interrogated at its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a US military spokesman, yesterday said all the teenagers being held were "captured as active combatants against US forces", and described them as "enemy combatants".

The children, some of whom have been held at Guantanamo for over a year, are imprisoned in separate cells from the adult detainees, Lt Col Johnson said. He would say only that the teenagers are "very few, a very small number" and would not say how old the youngest prisoner is.

The US military confirmed their presence yesterday after Australia's ABC television reported that children were being held at Guantanamo, the controversial detention centre where prisoners from the war in Afghanistan have been held by the US, in breach of the Geneva conventions, for over a year.

The news sparked outrage from human rights groups already campaigning against the indefinite detention of the roughly 660 males from 42 countries, held on suspicion of having links to al-Qaida or Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime. They have not been charged or allowed access to lawyers.

"That the US sees nothing wrong with holding children at Guantanamo and interrogating them is a shocking indicator of how cavalier the Bush administration has become about respecting human rights," said an Amnesty International spokesman, Alistair Hodgett.

Human Rights Watch said the US was exacerbating a contentious situation. "[The detention of youths] reflects our broader concerns that the US never properly determined the legal status of those held in the conflict," said James Ross, legal adviser for Human Rights Watch in New York.

Lt Col Johnson said the juveniles were being held because "they have potential to provide important information in the ongoing war on terrorism".

"Their release is contingent on the determination that they are not a threat to the [US] nation and have no further intelligence value."

Lt Col Johnson said officials determined that some detainees were younger than 16 during medical and other screenings after their arrival in Cuba. He added that all the prisoners aged under 16 years were brought to Guantanamo after January 1 2002 - suggesting that some were 15 or younger when they were first imprisoned.

In September 2002, Canadian officials reported that a 15-year-old Canadian had been captured on July 27 after being badly wounded in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan. Canada's prime minister, Jean Chrétien said he was seeking consular access to the boy.

Last week, Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the youth, now 16, is being held in Guantanamo and that US officials have refused access to Canadian officials.

The newspaper quoted unidentified sources as saying that the youth allegedly threw a grenade that killed Sergeant 1st Class Christopher James Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Globe and Mail said US officials would want to interrogate the Canadian because his father has been identified as a senior financial leader of al-Qaida.

Lawyers have blamed the indefinite detentions for increasing depression and suicide attempts at the camp, which received the first detainees in January 2001.

According to the US military, there have been 25 suicide attempts by 17 prisoners at Camp X-Ray, with 15 attempts made this year.

Just this Monday the US military announced that one prisoner, who it said was under supervision in the acute care unit of a new mental health ward, made a repeated suicide attempt.




What do you think, Dreadsox? Are you still the same opinion like before, when you said

"As this is dragging on, and these people are there for a longer and longer time, I am more bothered by it. As for there being people under the age of 18, I am sorry, but their organization attacked my country. They made poor choices."

and

"(...) I do not think I agree with the letter. Having served in the service and been through how to properly detain and meet the standards of the Geneva Convention, I believe they are being treated fairly in the camp. I would not sign this letter."

Please explain you opinion.

Thank you again for taking the time.
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Old 05-29-2003, 06:08 PM   #14
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done and done...

great post and letter hiphop.
I just signed the letter and sent the email....I hope it makes a difference.
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Old 05-29-2003, 09:42 PM   #15
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I am still not able to send it. I am growing increasingly upset over the fact they have not been given a trial. It need not take this long.

Peace
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