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08-09-2003, 01:10 AM
'Nothing to fear' from Guantanamo trials

By Rachel Clarke
BBC News Online in Washington

The Pentagon's top lawyer has insisted that terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay will be treated fairly if they go on trial.

Moazzam Begg (left) and Feroz Abassi may face military hearings
"The military commissions will be transparent," said William Haynes, the chief legal officer at the US defence department and legal adviser to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

No military trials have yet been ordered for any of the hundreds of suspects held at the US base on Cuba but two Britons - Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abassi - have been named with four other men as suitable candidates for the first tribunals.

The US and UK governments are in negotiations about the fate of the British detainees and there is now agreement that the men will not face the death penalty if convicted of terrorist offences.

Mr Haynes is set to travel to London next week for more talks with UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith as the detainees' families and lawyers continue to express concern about the fairness of the military system.

Americans have been tried by military commissions before now, though US citizens such as John Walker Lindh who were captured in Afghanistan or other anti-terror operations have their cases handled in civilian courts.

Donald Rumsfeld has been charged with ensuring fair trials <font color="blue">HaHa. Sorry , just had to laugh there. </font color>
But that did not mean there was anything wrong with the form of justice ordered for non-citizens by US President George W Bush, Mr Haynes told a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"I'm confident that one thing that the military in the United States does very well is take and follow through with lawful orders from superiors," he said.

"The president has asked the secretary of defence that if he tries anybody using military commissions, he should conduct full and fair trials - that is what will be done."

"I can assure you that the military officers who swore to uphold the constitution of the United States will do a very good job," Mr Haynes added, responding to a question from BBC News Online.

He said basic protections and standards would apply as they do in any court case in the US - defendants would have the right to challenge evidence and would be innocent until proven guilty, for instance. <font color="blue">HaHaHa. </font color>

But the existence of detention centres like Guantanamo Bay and the option to try suspects in military commissions was a useful tool in the US' fight against terrorism which has no traditional rules or battlefields as in conventional warfare.

"We are interested first and foremost in protecting against people who would be trying to kill Americans and others from getting back on the battlefield and doing harm again," Mr Haynes said.

International message

Morton Halperin, who headed an American Civil Liberties Union project seeking to reconcile the requirements of national security with civil liberties, agreed that military tribunals would deliver fair trials.

No-one held at Guantanamo has yet been charged with a crime
"But it's important that we do justice and be seen to do justice," he told the same forum.

The differences between the handling of cases involving US citizens and foreigners could be confusing, particularly at a time when the US continues to encourage other countries not to use military tribunals if they have a functioning and independent civil court system.

"We want to think about the message we are sending to the rest of the world," he said.

Michael Chertoff, an appeals court judge and former justice department official who was speaking in a personal capacity, said it would be a "fundamental error" to think that military commissions would offer anything less than full justice.

Because of the likely attention, judges and lawyers may even go further than usual to ensure a proper hearing, he said.

"It would be a big mistake to assume that judges in military tribunals will take a dive." <hr /></blockquote>

The trouble with trying to defend something that is plainly wrong is that its easy to contradict yourself.

The American prisoner was handled in accordance with his rights under the Constitution.
All non-Americans are presently being held in G Bay and have no rights. To say that they will be tried in accordance with the Constitution of the USA will assure them a fair trail, is ridiculous. Its a Constitution that doesnt apply to them , because they are not American citizens.
Either it applies or it doesnt.

defendants would have the right to challenge evidence and would be innocent until proven guilty, for instance. <hr /></blockquote>

If they were presumed to be innocent, WTF are they doing in G Bay? Total BS.

It is a difficult situation , but I think it has been handled badly.It would have been easier to justify G bay if the American had not been singled out for special treatment.
If the President must act according to the Constitution he cannot discriminate between two prisoners because one is from another country. If the American ,100% Taliban, is treated as an individual , then the rest must be treated that way as well.

If the whole group had been considered as POW, then they could be tried at a military court. Terrorists must be tried in a civil court of law.
Of course , its just my opinion .