Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Ben Fox, was distributed by the Associated Press, October 24, 2009
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Three human rights groups said Friday they will spurn an invitation to tour the Guantanamo Bay prison next month because it doesn't include an opportunity to speak with prisoners.
Amnesty International USA, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch all said the recent Defense Department invitation falls short of the full access to the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba that they jointly requested in a January letter to President Barack Obama.
"What is needed and is still being denied .... is full access to the detention camps, including detainees, so that we may independently review and report on the conditions of confinement there," said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program.
A fourth group invited on the tour, Human Rights First, raised similar objections but hasn't yet decided how to respond to the invitation, which came in an Oct. 8 letter from Philip E. Carter, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy.
The four regularly send observers to the proceedings of the war crimes tribunals at Guantanamo but have sought to inspect the prison camps and meet with prisoners, hoping to provide the Obama administration with an outside assessment of conditions.
They were seeking far more than the standard tours, without prisoner access, that are offered to journalists, lawmakers and other visitors to the U.S. base in Cuba. Instead, they wanted a role more like that of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which interviews prisoners but issues confidential reports to the government.
Carter appears to rule out more than the typical tour in his letter to the human rights groups. He offers a visit to the prison camps and medical facilities as well as the legal complex where tribunals are held, but says they will not have access to the detainees or their records.
He did not return a phone call seeking comment but says in the letter that the visit would provide a "better understanding of the conditions" at the prison, where the U.S. holds about 220 men.
"It is in everyone's interest for the detention conditions at (Guantanamo) to be as transparent as possible," Carter wrote in the letter, which the ACLU provided to The AP, "and we would welcome a visit by your organization."
Dakwar has been an observer at proceedings of the war crimes tribunals more than a dozen times but said neither he, nor anyone from the ACLU, has been inside the prison — and won't go under these conditions.
Tom Parker, a policy director for Amnesty International, said his group also sees little value in such a limited tour.
"A managed tour of the facility is a Potemkin tour and that doesn't help us understand conditions at Guantanamo," Parker said.
The Obama administration has pledged to close the prison by early next year and has said it will decide by Nov. 16 which Guantanamo prisoners will be tried in a revamped military court and which ones moved to civilian courts.
This article, by Robyn E. Blumner, was published by The St. Petersburg Times, October 25, 2009
Ubi jus ibi remedium.
Probably nothing turns readers off more than starting a column with some incomprehensible Latin phrase. But this one's relevant. It means: Where there is a right, there is a remedy. When a legal wrong has been done, the courts should be able to order some kind of relief. Otherwise, what good is the right?
What good is habeas corpus (more Latin, sorry) if after it is determined that you are being held illegally you can be kept in jail? This is precisely the question the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to answer. A case taken Tuesday asks whether a court has the power to free Guantanamo detainees after finding they were wrongly imprisoned, even if the only place to send them is the United States.
Here is the crazy situation that exists now: A group of Muslim Uighurs who fled oppression in western China and went to camps in the mountains of Afghanistan were turned over to the U.S. military, reportedly by Pakistani officials for a bounty of $5,000 a head. They have been imprisoned in Guantanamo for more than seven years, and it wasn't until last October that the Uighurs finally had their habeas corpus petitions ruled on by a federal judge. He found they were wrongfully imprisoned. The government has admitted that the Uighurs are not enemy combatants. Whatever beef they have is with China, which is why the men cannot be returned there, where they would be tortured or executed.
But since at the time no other country would take them, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered them released in the United States. A Uighur community promised housing and employment help.
This seems fair. We made them stateless, dragged them to Guantanamo and robbed them of six years of their lives before bothering to give them due process. Releasing them is the least we can do.
But then something astounding happened, at least from a logic, compassion and constitutional standpoint. In February, a federal appellate court set aside the order to free the men. It said that because the Uighurs are aliens and all immigration decisions are the province of the political branches, the court is powerless to order their transfer to our shores.
According to this reasoning, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in Boumediene vs. Bush that Guantanamo detainees have the right to be free from "arbitrary and unlawful restraint," the court intended a huge loophole. Even if a court determines that a Guantanamo detainee has been unlawfully imprisoned for years, he will have to remain until his jailer finds him another country, whenever that is ... maybe never.
Having a right without a remedy is frustrating when the issue is, say, money damages defeated by sovereign immunity. But here the issue is the most fundamental: liberty.
The Uighur case has resulted in other prisoners ending in the same limbo. Of 30 detainees who federal judges have found in the last year are being unlawfully detained, only 10 have been resettled in foreign countries, none here. Lower court judges are powerless except to admonish the administration to hurry its relocation efforts.
The hope is that even this conservative Supreme Court will side with the Uighurs. The high court was exceptionally protective of habeas corpus during the Bush presidency. It would be stunning if the court allowed those rulings elevating due process over presidential power to be emasculated by immigration law.
The case has iffy prospects on another front. President Barack Obama promised to shutter Guantanamo within a year of his presidency, which could moot the case by the time it is heard next year. Four Uighurs have now been sent to Bermuda, and Palau says it will take others.
But the principle will not go away. Obama promised in his inaugural to protect "the rights of man." To be meaningful, as the president knows, those rights must be more than declaratory. They must include a remedy, a way to walk free from one's illegal imprisonment.
This article, by James Whitaker, was published by Agence France Pressse, October 21, 2009
HAMILTON, Bermuda — Every morning Khalil Mamut rides to work through winding palm-lined lanes on his rental scooter.
He spends the day raking the bunkers and tending the greens of a majestic ocean side golf course. Some evenings he trains with his soccer team. Other nights he studies his English homework or simply relaxes watching a DVD, preferably something with Jackie Chan.
It is a simple existence. But it is a life he says he will never take for granted.
It has been four months since Mamut and three other Chinese Uighur Muslims were brought blinking into the Bermudian sunlight after a secret pre-dawn flight from Guantanamo Bay, where they had been imprisoned for seven years.
The unique resettlement project -- which will be mirrored soon when eight of their fellow Uighur detainees are given new homes in the Pacific island of Palau -- has worked out well for the Bermuda four.
The men say they are adapting to their new lives on this tiny paradise island, home to roughly 65,000 people, and spend much of their spare time swimming or fishing in the ocean.
"I would like to stay here forever -- to work, make money, hopefully get married, have kids and take them to the beach," Mamut said.
The men were among a larger group of Uighurs captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan and sold for bounty to US forces after fleeing the mountains in the wake of the US-led raids that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks.
They say they were living as refugees in Afghanistan, having faced religious persecution in China. Relations have long been tense between Uighurs and China's majority Han, with some 200 people dying in July in ethnic fighting.
But their captors claimed they had attended terror-training camps and they were flown to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in June 2002.
After a series of military tribunals and court-room battles they were cleared of any links to global terrorism.
Unable to return to China where they would almost certainly be prosecuted, and with no country prepared to offer them asylum, they were trapped in legal limbo and spent seven years marooned at Guantanamo until the Bermuda government offered them a home.
President Barack Obama's administration has been asking nations to take in clear Guantanamo inmates as it struggles to shut down the camp, which for many around the world became a symbol of US "war on terror" excesses.
US lawmakers, alleging that the men still posed a risk, refused to let them come to the United States. And many nations dared not risk the wrath of China, which was infuriated when Albania accepted four of the Uighurs in 2006.
The resettlement in Bermuda has not been without hitches. Protesters marched on parliament and Premier Ewart Brown faced a vote of no-confidence for his pact with the Obama administration.
Britain also voiced frustration that it was not further consulted by the decision in Bermuda, a self-governing British overseas territory.
But on the streets the Uighurs have been warmly welcomed and are treated almost as minor celebrities.
They may have shaved their thick beards and swapped their prison fatigues for board shorts and sunglasses, but they are still instantly recognizable.
And it is not unusual for passers-by to stop, shake their hands and ask for a photograph.
"People are very peaceful, very friendly. Everywhere we go people recognize us and say, 'You are welcome, don't worry you can stay here'," Mamut said.
The reception in Bermuda has been a pleasant surprise for US-based advocates of the former inmates, who had voiced fear that they would have trouble adjusting to a nation with no Uighur community.
Until they arrived in Bermuda the four men -- Mamut, Abdulla Abdulqadir, Salahidin Abdulahat and Ablikim Turahu -- had never set foot on a golf course.
Their only experience of the sport was playing on a Wii games console at the low-security Iguana Camp in Guantanamo Bay, where they were transferred after being cleared of any wrongdoing.
Now they spend their days tending the manicured fairways of Bermuda's famous Port Royal course, which was hosting the PGA Grand Slam in October and draws a slew of famous visitors, recently including former US president Bill Clinton.
"It's beautiful," Mamut said. "It feels like we are working in a garden.
"Everywhere is so green, everywhere there are trees. We even have some ducks."
Outside of work Mamut and Abdulqadir spend much of their time playing soccer.
They train twice-a-week and play matches on Sundays for X-Roads, an amateur team managed by the imam of a local mosque.
They insist they are not bitter about the seven years they spent in Guantanamo and try not to think of the past.
"We have started a new life. What is done can't be undone," Mamut said.
"When we left Gitmo we left everything behind. I don't want to mention those suffering days," he aid.
"Praise be to Allah, we are in Bermuda now."
This press release, from the ACLU, was posted to War Criminals Watch, October 22, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Senate today passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes significant changes to the Guantánamo military commissions. The House approved the legislation earlier this month and the bill now moves to President Obama's desk for signature.
While the bill revises the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to remove some of its worst violations of due process, the legislation still falls far short of the requirements imposed by U.S. and international law. It continues to apply the military commissions to a much broader group of individuals than should be tried before them under the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and does not even prohibit military commission trials of children. At the same time, the bill includes some significant improvements to the military commissions, including the requirement of experienced capital defense attorneys in death penalty cases, more resources for defense counsel, significant new limitations on the use of hearsay and coerced testimony and greater access to witnesses and evidence for defendants.
Despite any improvements, the American Civil Liberties Union still firmly believes that the military commissions are inherently illegitimate, are inconsistent with the U.S. government's legal obligations under the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, and should be shut down for good.
The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative
"Though these changes include some additional due process protections and ensure greater resources for defense counsel, there's simply no way to make these inherently illegitimate military commissions acceptable. The military commissions are a separate and unequal justice system that was created to circumvent the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and achieve quick convictions. Despite the improvements in this bill, the military commissions remain a second class system of justice and their continuation will only serve to keep alive the terrible policies set by the Bush administration.
"Due to the military commissions' tainted history, they will continue to be stigmatized as illegitimate in whatever form they take. The commissions will continue to be plagued by delay and controversy and will carry the disgraced reputation of Guantánamo. In fact, one clear sign to the rest of the world that these are unfair tribunals is that no U.S. citizen can ever be tried before them – Congress made clear that this faulty trial system is reserved only for non-Americans. The substantial goodwill that America gained with President Obama's determination to shut down the Guantánamo prison may be lost as the world discovers that some of its worst aspects may continue."
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"We are disappointed that Congress has voted to continue the fatally flawed military commissions system. Now it is up to President Obama to change course and leave the awful legacy of Guantánamo behind. The legislation gives the president the option of using the commissions, but does not require him to exercise that option. President Obama should abandon the military commissions system in favor of the federal courts, which have shown themselves capable of trying terrorism suspects in a manner that is consistent with domestic and international law."