Guantanamo rules changed

“They’ve redefined torture to extend to anything short of death,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “But all this redefining of torture, it’s just semantics, like arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” New rules released by The Pentagon will allow for the use of evidence in trials based on hearsay and coercive interrogation in the prosecution of the enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay.

The new 238-page manual revealed to Congress on Jan. 18 outlined the procedure for prosecution by military commission of suspects being held at the American military base. If a suspect is found guilty, life imprisonment or even execution could follow.

Human rights groups, defense lawyers assigned to the base and many Democratic senators have expressed concerns with the new manual. Although torture is officially banned, the allowance for coercion has outraged many.

“Mental, physical, psychological coercion, whatever you call it, it’s still torture, which is banned by all civilized nations,” Duncan said, “although it is still practiced by all civilized nations anyway.”

“As long as you are willing to use what was obtained by torture, you are endorsing torture,” said Jumana Musa, an advocacy director for Amnesty International, to Legal News.

The Defense Department is currently planning trials for at least 10 detainees, although enough evidence has been gathered to charge up to 80 more detainees.

Brig. Gen. Hemingway, The Pentagon’s legal advisor in the Guantanamo proceedings, said to, “(The goal) has been to design a system that meets our responsibility under (Geneva Conventions) and that provides a fair trial.”

“(The Guantanamo rules) violate the basic principles of law as we know it in this country,” Duncan said. “Even the lowliest, meanest U.S. citizen has rights to a fair trial. To deny them that just because they aren’t a U.S. citizen is outrageous.”

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Mori, the defense counsel for David Hicks, an Australian citizen and alleged member of Taliban, is one of those outraged by the new trial rules. He was particularly concerned with the way classified evidence for the prosecution may now be used.

“Things are worse under this new system. Under the old commission system a military defense lawyer was allowed to see all the classified evidence,” Mori said to the New Zealand Herald. “Even if David Hicks couldn’t, I could. Now they want to, basically, say that I may not see classified evidence.”

According to Dan Dell’Orto, The Pentagon’s principal deputy general counsel, classified evidence will be made available to the defense team, but the government could request some parts obscured for national security reasons.

“While you’re in the middle of a war against this enemy, you need to be particularly concerned about the disclosure of that evidence to the accused or anyone else who might be in a position to see it in a courtroom setting,” Dell’Orto said to CBC News.

The Guantanamo Bay detainment camp has recently been the focus of much protest and disgust worldwide. Many of those detained within have not been charged, and there has been massive outcry for their release. The government has stated that too many might return to battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to a recent poll conducted by BBC, the Guantanamo Bay detention center and the Iraq War are the most often cited international liabilities to U.S. prestige abroad.