Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DoD Report on Conditions at Gitmo

Yesterday, the Department of Defense released a report detailing an investigation into whether the conditions at Guantanamo Bay met Common Article 3 requirements pursuant to President Obama's January 22nd Executive Order. The report is 81 pages long so I will not detail it here. I will tell you that the report concludes that the conditions at Gitmo do meet the requirements of Common Article 3. It also makes some recommendations as to things that could be improved, although it is careful to point out that it is not necessary to implement these recommendations to meet Common Article 3 requirements. The report does a nice job of detailing the facilities and operations at Gitmo.

In a somewhat related story, the New York Times reported today that a French appellate court overturned the convictions of five former Gitmo inmates. The court overturned the original convictions because it said that French intelligence officials obtained evidence used at trial in violation of French law. Without this evidence the court said that the convictions could not be upheld. Among those who had their convictions overturned was Mourad Benchellali. Benchellali is from a family who has strong ties to terrorism. His father, mother, and two brothers have all been convicted of terrorist activity. The most disturbing part of the NY Times article is that it says that all the men admitted that they received training in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

The French court decision is worrisome to me for two reasons. First, the timing of the decision is unfortunate given that it comes close on the heels of the release of the DoD report. The court decision is based on its finding that conditions and methods used at Gitmo fell below a standard that made evidence obtained there admissible in court. This basically says that the French court felt that Gitmo conditions did not meet international conventions (i.e. The Geneva Conventions). A distinction could be made that these detainees were held at Gitmo during the Bush administration so it has nothing to do with Obama, but any blow to Gitmo now does not look good. Second, and the NY Times article mentions this, it brings up concerns about what will happen to the current detainees once they are released. It's a sure bet that some of them will be released to foreign countries whose courts could find similarly to the French court. This would lead to the potential release of more terrorists, and could further damage the U.S.'s reputation.

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