vendredi, janvier 26, 2007

Actualité - Government Targets Lawyers Defending Guantánamo Prisoners

Top officials from the Pentagon and Department of Justice (DoJ) are targeting the lawyers defending the hundreds of people held at the Guantánamo concentration camp at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba. The government is targeting the lawyers simply for defending the people at Guantánamo, all unjustly imprisoned and humiliated, with many tortured and subjected to other cruel punishment.

The Pentagon began the public attack on the lawyers on January 11, the fifth anniversary of the Guantánamo concentration camp at the U.S. Naval base on occupied land in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It was the same day as more than 1000 demonstrations occurred in the U.S. and worldwide to demand Guantánamo be immediately closed and the Iraq War ended now.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Charles “Cully” Stimson, speaking on Federal News Radio (widely heard by government officials and other) specifically urged the law firms involved in defending Guantánamo prisoners — who have not been charged with any crime — to block their lawyers from providing any services. Stimson utilized a 14-page list naming the lawyers and their firms, drawn up by a radio talk-show host to serve as a blacklist for targeting “lawyers representing terrorists.” Stimson, naming more than a dozen specific law firms, then emphasized, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms.”

About 500 lawyers currently provide free (pro bono) services. The cases involve habeas corpus appeals, demanding that the government produce the prisoners in public U.S. courts and charge them or release them. While the Supreme Court in 2004 ruled the prisoners must be produced in court, the government has refused to abide by the ruling. Now it is targeting the lawyers.

It is a basic tenant of the U.S. legal system that everyone, whatever the charge, is innocent until proven guilty and entitled to legal representation. In addition, it is a well-known fact that none of the people at Guantánamo have been charged with terrorism, none are in any way connected with September 11, and even by the Pentagon’s estimate at least 92 percent are not guilty of any crime. Only 10 of the more than 800 people sent to Guantánamo have been charged at all.

Stimson also threatened the lawyers and their firms and attempted to further discredit them by implying they were receiving funds from terrorists. When asked in the radio interview who was paying for the legal representation, Mr. Stimson said, “It’s not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

The Wall Street Journal also joined in the government’s “smear and fear” campaign. Robert L. Pollock, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, cited the list of law firms and quoted an unnamed “senior U.S. official” as saying, “Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

And to make certain everyone got these points, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a few days later said that the main reason the people at Guantánamo have not been tried is that the lawyers are standing in the way! Gonzales, claiming the government is trying to bring the prisoners to trial, said, “It’s not for lack of trying [by the government]. We are challenged every step of the way.” According to the government, the problem is not broad government impunity and elimination of rule of law, but those attempting to uphold rule of law and defend those victimized by the government.

The spokesperson for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which organizes the representation of the people held at Guantánamo said, “The only delay in charging, trying or releasing detainees has been by the Bush administration.” He added, “We have been trying for five years to get their cases heard in federal court, and the Bush administration has continued to try to circumvent two Supreme Court rulings and do everything in its power to keep the men at Guantánamo from challenging their detention. Only 10 of the 775 men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo have even been designated for the military commissions, which are a sham tribunal to begin with.”

This past summer the Supreme Court, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, ruled the military commissions unconstitutional and that the Guantánamo prisoners must have their day in public court. They refused however to require the closing of this unconstitutional, illegal concentration camp. They instead called on Bush to pass legislation. This was done, with Congress, through passage of the Military Commissions Act (MCA). The MCA attempts to make government impunity and tyranny “legal,” by eliminating habeas corpus, giving the president power to brand anyone an enemy combatant and impose indefinite military detention, giving the president power to decide what constitutes torture and if the Geneva Conventions apply — meaning he can continue torture and indefinite detentions on his say so — and making it illegal to charge top government and military officials, including the president, secretary of defense and others, for the crimes of torture already committed.

Lawyers and civil rights advocates and organizations across the country have roundly denounced the government attack and the MCA itself as illegal, unconstitutional and contributing to the complete elimination of rule of law. CCR and others are stepping up their resistance, including participating in the demonstrations January 11 at the Supreme Court and U.S. Federal Court hearing the Guantánamo cases, where 90 people were arrested demanding that Guantánamo be closed now.

(Voice of Revolution)

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