The press and public have a constitutional right to observe proceedings of military commissions trying terror suspects, says a lawyer representing news organizations seeking an open proceeding at Guantanamo Bay.
At Guantanamo, “The values served by open criminal proceedings — public acceptance of the verdict, accountability for lawyers and judges, and democratic oversight of our government institutions — apply … with particular urgency,” lawyer David A. Schulz writes in a New York Times op-ed.
Schulz recently raised similar issues in arguing before a military judge that testimony by a captive on how the CIA interrogated him should not be closed. The judge then mooted the issue for the time being, according to a McClatchy Newspapers article. The defendant, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, is accused of masterminding al-Qaida’s 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, in which 17 sailors died.
“The thought of a Guantánamo defendant taking the stand to testify about his treatment, in his own words, may not be appealing for many reasons,” Schulz writes in his op-ed. “But we must be prepared to lay out all the facts, wherever they lead, if we are to demonstrate to the world that the verdicts ultimately rendered at Guantánamo are justifiable, however they turn out.”
Meanwhile in a Los Angeles Times commentary by Reed Brody, counsel with Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the fairness of al-Nashiri’s upcoming Guantanamo trial. The commissions “do no meet international fair trial standards,” as military judges and juror pool are picked by the Defense Department, he says, and there is a great disparity of resources between the prosecution and defense.
Families of sailors who were killed “deserve a verdict free from doubt, just as the U.S. needs a trial that is accepted around the world as a fair search for the truth. On both counts, the Guantanamo commissions are likely to fall short,” Brody writes.