- May 19, 2009
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Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union » What We Stand For
WTF. Obama needs to hold himself accountable to his campaign promises. This is NOT hope and change, and it's a shameful slur on our history as a nation.Monday was Day One of the sentencing hearing in the case of Sudanese detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi. Al-Qosi was the first detainee to be convicted under President Obama, in a plea deal entered this June in which he admitted to being an al Qaeda cook and occassional driver. Yesterday saw jury selection of senior military officers, who would deliver a formal sentence in al-Qosi's case. If the jury delivers a sentence longer than what was agreed to in the plea bargin, it will be moot. Unless the jury delivers a shorter sentence, al-Qosi's true sentence will be what was hammered out in the plea agreement.
But in an unprecedented move, military judge Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul ordered today that al-Qosi's true sentence will be kept secret until he's released. The judge said the government requested that the sentence be kept secret.
A fellow observer of the military commissions here, former Marine judge and law of war expert Gary Solis, here to monitor the commissions for the National Institute for Military Justice, says he has participated in 700 courts-martial and has never heard of a secret sentence.
A final pretrial hearing also took place Monday in the case of Canadian Omar Khadr, who will start trial today as the first test trial of the military commissions under President Obama. In a summary decision of only a few words, and with no explanation, the military judge in Omar Khadr's case, Col. Patrick Parrish, denied defense motions to exclude self-incriminating statements Khadr made to interrogators because of torture and other abuse. The judge will issue a written decision, certainly after the trial begins and possibly after it's ended, but for now he's offered no explanation.
It boggles the mind that the military judge could find that Khadr was not coerced and gave these statements to interrogators voluntarily. Khadr, then 15 years old, was taken to Bagram near death, after being shot twice in the back, blinded by shrapnel, and buried in rubble from a bomb blast. He was interrogated within hours, while sedated and handcuffed to a stretcher. He was threatened with gang rape and death if he didn't cooperate with interrogators. He was hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell, and his primary interrogator was later court-martialed for detainee abuse leading to the death of a detainee. During his subsequent eight-year (so far) detention at Guantánamo, Khadr was subjected to the "frequent flyer" sleep deprivation program and he says he was used as a human mop after he was forced to urinate on himself.
In closing arguments before the judge's ruling, Khadr's sole defense lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, told the judge, "Sir, be a voice today. Tell the world that we actually stand for what we say we stand for."