Thursday, May 27, 2010

U.S. demands civilian trials -- except in the U.S.

Hypocrisy...that's Amurr'ca!

    Glenn Greenwald
    Salon -

    The Washington Post, today (h/t Arkinsaw):

    A judge granted parole Tuesday to Lori Berenson, the 40-year-old New York activist who has spent 15 years in Peruvian prisons on a conviction of aiding leftist rebels. . . . Berenson had for many years denied any wrongdoing, maintaining she was a political prisoner and not a terrorist. But her defense team said in papers submitted to the judge that she "recognized she committed errors in involving herself in activities of the MRTA" . . . .

    Berenson was arrested in 1995 and initially accused of being a leader of the MRTA, which bombed banks and kidnapped and killed civilians but was nowhere near as violent as the better-known Shining Path insurgency. It is blamed for, at most, 200 killings. . . .

    She was convicted of treason by a military court in 1996. But after an intense campaign by her parents. . ., she was retried in a civilian court in 2000. It convicted Berenson of the lesser crime and reduced her sentence to 20 years. . . . The U.S. State Department had pushed hard for the civilian trial, saying Berenson was denied due process by the military tribunal.

    Washington Post, May 9, 2009 -- CNN, November 9, 2009 -- Washington Independent, April 27, 2010:

    The Obama administration is preparing to revive the system of military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba . . . [Attorney General] Holder also announced that five other detainees held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be sent to military commissions for trial. . . . Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has finally signed and issued a Manual for the Military Commissions Act of 2009. It’s 7:30 p.m. as I write this. Approximately 13 and a half hours from now, Col. Pat Parrish, the military judge presiding over Omar Khadr’s pre-trial hearing, will gavel the first full-fledged military commission proceeding of the Obama administration into order.

    It's true that the Berenson military tribunal in Peru was filled with due process deficiencies. That's what happens when governments deny accused Terrorists a trial in a real court, and instead concoct ad hoc military tribunals: it's inevitable that grave injustices will occur, such as refusing even to provide the rules governing the proceedings until 13 hours before the tribunal begins, as just happened with the child soldier, Omar Khadr, at Guantanamo. As the Berenson conviction highlights, the U.S. previously protested military tribunals and demanded civilian trials even when it involved a foreign national credibly accused of involvement in a designated Terrorist group (as was true of Berenson in Peru). Now, we're the ones who deny civilian trials. We've gone from protesting the "justice system" of the Peruvian authoritarian Alberto Fujimori to (at best) following it.

Read all of it.