Shut the Whole Thing Down

November 2012
New York Times

CCR Executive Director Vince Warren discusses Guantanamo, military tribunals, and the rule of law in the New York Times.

Guantánamo was an international symbol of lawlessness and abuse in 2008 when the newly elected President Obama promised to close it, and remains so today. The military commissions at Guantánamo are an ad hoc second-class system of justice, where defendants have no right to know their accusers or even see the evidence against them and where hearsay is admissible. It is a system reserved for Muslim men. The results of this system will be seen as illegitimate and challenged for years to come. Obama would do well to shut the whole misbegotten project down.

Charge and trial before a lawfully established court is the absolute baseline for justice, which cannot happen at Guantánamo or before political creations like the commissions designed for the purpose of achieving convictions. And yet, our courts are not immune to the politics of the day. Our federal courts upheld the government’s use of an anonymous expert witness in the Holy Land Foundation case right here on U.S. soil. Most federal terrorism prosecutions involve the vague and slippery charge of material support. Muslims, both pretrial and post-conviction, are kept under cruel and inhuman conditions not just in Guantánamo but in the United States. One of the worst solitary confinement facilities at Guantánamo -- Camp 6 -- was modeled after supermax facilities in the United States.

We must not leave people to rot in Guantánamo or force them to participate in the political show trials of the military commissions. But we cannot simply extol high conviction rates as proof that federal courts are the answer. As we explore how best to try these cases, we also need to challenge the ways in which our criminal justice system is unconstitutional and unjust.

Last modified 

January 3, 2014