Khadr hearing still on despite requests for delay
— The U.S. military commission proceedings against Omar Khadr at its
infamous Guantanamo Bay prison remained on life support Saturday after a
military judge nixed a joint request by both defence and prosecution to
delay hearings until incoming U.S. president Barack Obama takes office on
Colonel Patrick Parrish's decision late Friday evening came
despite the unusual joint plea to call off the military commission
proceedings in the “interests of justice.”
“Prosecutors' unexpected agreement to the defence requests signals a
clear recognition that the commissions are about to be stopped,” said
Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, Mr. Khadr's Pentagon-appointed lawyer.
Military officials were playing a game of ‘hot potato' in “a final
charade before president-elect Obama puts an end to the sham Guantanamo
tribunals,” he said.
The developments come amid a flurry of activity surrounding the
internationally, and increasingly domestically, condemned military commission
proceedings at Guantanamo Bay.
About 250 “enemy combatants” and suspected terrorists, including Mr. Khadr,
Mr. Khadr is due to be in a courtroom on Monday, where he is expected to be
charged again with war crimes.
In recent days, senior Pentagon official Susan Crawford, who heads the
military commission system, admitted a detainee had been tortured and said she
assumed others had been as well.
That would make any confessions inadmissible by any normal legal standard.
Mr. Obama's pick for attorney general, Eric Holder, said this past week the
commissions have failed to afford due process.
The Toronto-born Mr. Khadr, 22, has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than
six years on charges he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier in
Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was just 15.
Documents have revealed he was subject to severe abuse, such as sleep
deprivation and being held in stress positions.
Another senior Pentagon official, Air Force Colonel Peter Masciola who is
acting as the chief commission defence lawyer, called on Ms. Crawford to stop
the proceedings and withdraw charges in the 14 cases facing the commission.
“The perception of pervasive torture now saddles the incoming administration
and its efforts to set these proceedings on a just course,” Col. Masciola wrote
“There is only one way to begin changing that perception, and also the
reality, of fundamental injustice: Withdraw the referrals now.”
Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said that pressing ahead against Mr. Khadr on Monday with
what he called a “failed” experiment made no sense.
“Everyone (is) wondering why the government intends to move dozens of
witnesses, military personnel, and even family members of 9/11 victims to
Guantanamo for a week of hearings,” Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said.
“(It serves) no purpose other than interrupting the lives of dozens of
witnesses and needlessly spending taxpayer dollars.”
Lawyers for the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators also filed a similar request in
which prosecutors in that case joined, also to no avail.