Sunday, June 08, 2008

Destruction of evidence at Gitmo

Further to this post at pogge today on the latest Gitmo travesties, we hear about another violation of due process today involving the destruction of evidence by Khadr interrogators. Apparently at Gitmo, it's Standard Operating procedure for interrogators to interrogate and then destroy their notes lest they be called into court to have their evidence questioned. Making the job of the defence to cross-examine such evidence all the more difficult. For it no longer exists. Khadr's lawyer has requested such written evidence and has been told, guess what, there's none.

The report:
Guantanamo Bay interrogators were directed to destroy handwritten notes in an attempt to minimize the chances they could have their actions questioned in court, states a newly released document that could derail the case of Canadian Omar Khadr.

The document confirms for the first time that the Pentagon had a policy that required original notes to be systematically destroyed – something detainee defence lawyers argue undermines their ability to challenge the government's evidence.

This is particularly true in Khadr's case where it appears prosecutors will rely heavily on Khadr's alleged confessions.

The directive for interrogators is known as a SOP or standard operating procedure, and was released late last week to Khadr's defence lawyers by the prosecution.

"This mission has legal and political issues that may lead to interrogators being called to testify, keeping the number of documents with interrogation information to a minimum can minimize certain legal issues," the policy states, according to an affidavit released to the media Sunday by Khadr's military lawyer, Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler.

"If handwritten notes were destroyed in accordance with the SOP, the government intentionally deprived Omar's lawyers of key evidence with which to challenge the reliability of his statements," Kuebler wrote in an email.

Furthermore, if the U.S. government is proven to have destroyed evidence in bad faith, the war crimes law under which Khadr is charged requires that the case can be thrown out.
(emphasis added)
In the wake of the Pentagon having "retired" a judge who was recently threatening to halt the case given prosecution stonewalling on the production of evidence, this news contributes to the perception that they did in fact get rid of Judge Brownback in order to avoid the consequences of such illegal procedures.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, under the spineless Conservatives, we'll no doubt hear more about how it's still "premature" to weigh in on such violations of procedural fairness. Yet the Gitmo trials have been shown to contravene basic principles of fairness and serve the propaganda interests of the U.S. government. It's long past time for Mr. Harper to show leadership. The absurdity of our government's stance is being illuminated bit by bit as these revelations continue.

(Globe report, here.)