Monday, June 04, 2007

Charges Against Khadr Dropped

...But He Will Still Remain in Guantanamo

Well, this is one for the books. According to this report from CBC News,
An American military judge abruptly dropped all charges on Monday against Omar Khadr, although it's unlikely to mean freedom for the only Canadian at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
A bit of background is in order. Khadr is the only Canadian citizen in Guantanamo. He was arrested FIVE YEARS AGO in Afghanistan, and accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer, described by the CBC as a Marine medic. Sounds fishy to me. The Marines don't have their own medics, and rely on Navy Corpsmen for that function. But I won't distract you further with what is probably just an honest mistake by the CBC.

Khadr was wounded in the firefight that led to his, mmm, what do you call it exactly? Arrest? Capture? Detention? Anyway, it looks like the judge couldn't find a way to shoehorn a claim of jurisdiction over the prisoner.
When Khadr arrived at Guantanamo five years ago, he was classified by a military panel as an "enemy combatant."

But under the new Military Commission Act, revised and passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2006, the military commissions only have jurisdiction to try "unlawful enemy combatants."

CBC News's Bill Gillespie, reporting from Guantanamo, said Khadr's classification as an enemy combatant means he was a fighting on the battlefield, but not necessarily acting unlawfully.

Gillespie said it is unclear what will happen to Khadr now, although it is unlikely he will be released.

"A greater possibility is that he will be sent back to another panel who will again review his status and perhaps then come up with a definition that gives the court jurisdiction," Gillespie said.

Khadr's sister said she is still holding out hope Khadr will be able to return to Canada.
What is one to make of this? On one hand, it's almost as if the rule of law has emerged to exert its authority over the proceedings of the military commissions created to deal with these 380 'prisoners' (only a handful of whom have ever been charged with anything.) There seems to be some repudiation of Bu$hCo™'s unconstitutional and vile creation of new law to deal with these people somewhere in this.

On the other hand, this dropping of the charges seems to be yet another instance of the government avoiding any possibility of this being tested in a Supreme Court showdown, because they KNOW they would lose. The treatment of these prisoners has been unlawful and unconstitutional since day one on a number of counts. The Bush solution to this hinges on their designation being as ill-defined as possible. They are not acknowledged as enemy soldiers, because that would bring in the authority of the Geneva Conventions. Nor are they criminal defendants, because they would then clearly enjoy habeas corpus rights. And of course, whatever rights they might have are nullified by the fact that Guantanamo is not on US soil, but in Cuba. It's the most elaborate legal shell game to come along since the Soviet gulags.

One thing is certain - no ruling, even total exoneration for these Guantanamo kidnap victims (cause that's what they are if you think about it) ever results in any of them actually being released. That just stinks.

Did you ever think that they are just practicing techniques on these people that they fully intend to apply to everybody?

UPDATE: By now you probably know that a very similar ruling has been made in the case of Salim Hamdan, another Guantanamo detainee. It was the Supreme Court's ruling against the government in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that led to the infamous and unconstitutional Military Commissions Act. Among the odious provisions of the MCA was the effective suspension of habeas corpus in US law. The US Supreme Court's refusal to consider the constitutionality of the MCA was a clear breach of their duty under the law, IMO. Holding people prisoners without legal justification is a practice that was repudiated by the Constitution, and moreover by English Common Law going back centuries.

Hamdan and Khadr are the only two inmates charged with any offense since the passing of the MCA. Reactions to the decision - from Patrick Leahy, via Think Progress; from the White House via MSNBC.

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