U. S. Representative Michael C. Burgess
WASHINGTON, DC OFFICE
1224 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
P: (202) 225-7772
F: (202) 225-2919
U. S. Representative John Conyers
House Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
P: (202) 225-3951
RE: Unlawful Detention at Guantanamo
Please recall my May 29, 2008 correspondence to Congress, Open Tribunal Records on Child Soldier POWs, a copy of which was forwarded to your attention, concerning detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
In the correspondence, I raised some questions about the circumstances under which some of these prisoners were detained, particularly underage combatants, recognized by UN standards as Child Soldiers.
However, I had no idea of this recent development where innocent Muslims were detained for years. (Source:“Judge orders release of Chinese Muslims in US”, by Hope Yen, Star-Telegram)
U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ordered the Bush administration Tuesday to immediately free 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo Bay into the United States... Over the objections of government lawyers, Urbina ordered their release in Washington D.C. by Friday.
“Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful… I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for the detention,” Urbina said.
At issue is whether a federal judge has the authority to order the release of Guantanamo prisoners who were unlawfully detained by the U.S. and cannot be sent back to their homeland. The Uighurs, who are Turkic-speaking Muslims in western China, have been cleared for release from Guantanamo since 2004 and ordinarily would have been sent home.
“How many times does the Bush administration need to be told that detainees are entitled to essential rights? All the remaining detainees in Guantanamo Bay must be either charged and tried or released immediately,” said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
I called your attention specifically to children falsely detained and branded as “terrorists”, specifically the cases of Mohamed el Gharani and Omar Khadr, ages 14 and 15 at the time of their detention, along with 37 other underage detainees in Guantanamo listed by the International Red Cross.
More recently, I brought up the story about Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a former Guanatamo prosecutor, who resigned and later requested immunity to testify on behalf of the defense against the government in the case of Mohammed Jawad, another teenager, accused of terrorism by tossing a grenade into a military jeep in Kabul in 2002, injuring two US soldiers and their Afghan interpreter.
If allowed, Col. Vandeveld would have testified how the government withheld evidence from the defense that would have proven Jawad’s innocence. Instead, his testimony was disallowed, and military sent the colonel to have a psychological evaluation.
According to a report by J.D. Tuccille, Civil Liberties Examiner, Col. Darrel Vandeveld also raises the possibility that Jawad was mistreated in custody -- specifically, by being subjected to sleep-deprivation.
“Vandeveld hasn't just resigned,” the report said. “He's supporting a defense effort to get the charges against Jawad dismissed because of prosecutorial misconduct.
With his resignation, Vandeveld follows in the footsteps of at least three other military prosecutors, including former chief prosecutor, Col. Morris D. Davis, who ended up testifying for the defense.”
Graciously, the US Supreme Court allowed these young and innocent detainees to challenge the conditions and circumstances of their confinement. Even presidential candidate Barack Obama lauded the 5-4 decision:
“The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo,” said Obama. “This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law… I voted against the Military Commissions Act because its sloppiness would inevitably lead to the Court, once again, rejecting the Administration's extreme legal position.”
But US Congress still has its head in the sand, while court decision, after court decision, clearly indicates that there is something rotten in Guantanamo?
Magnus Bergmar, Executive Director. Children’s World
World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child
Box 150, S-647 24 Mariefred, Sweden
The Child Protection Section
Programme Division UNICEF NY