More Disarray at Guantanamo Bay

Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a prosecutor involved in war crimes cases at Guantanamo, has quit citing ethical concerns. According to Vandeveld, the prosecution is failing to share evidence that could help defendants with defense attorneys. Vandeveld had been prosecuting Mohammed Jawad, 24, accused of throwing a grenade into a military jeep in Kabul in 2002 (when he was just 16 or 17 years old), injuring two U.S. troops and their interpreter.

“My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery,” wrote Vandeveld in his filing. “I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain ‘procedure’ for affording defense counsel discovery.”

It is increasingly clear that the military commission system is ill-equipped to deliver justice. Check out our report on the proven track record of federal criminal courts in prosecuting terrorism cases — without compromising fairness – for a better solution to dealing with these difficult cases.

Oh, but there’s more. On the same day of Vandeveld’s resignation, a military judge rejected a formal motion by Khalid Sheik Mohammed to disqualify himself because of bias and his upcoming retirement. It looks like it will a long time before KSM’s victims see justice, especially since the issue of KSM’s torture continues to be an issue in the case.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. James E. Hatcher, the lead military attorney for defendant Tawfiq bin Attash, said that if a new judge is appointed, a new round of pretrial hearings would be required and the new judge would be forced to reexamine earlier rulings.

That could set back a process that still lacks a trial date and promises to be protracted. The loquacious Mohammed, as he does on most days, took the lead in speaking for the other four defendants, all of whom face the death penalty if convicted on various murder and war crimes charges.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has confirmed that Mohammed was subject to waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, among other tactics when he was held by the intelligence agency. But the Bush administration has argued that the coercive interrogation techniques it sanctioned did not amount to torture.

Defense attorneys said they will seek to exclude from trial all evidence extracted under duress. “Torture is at issue in this case,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, who is representing Ammar al-Baluchi. “It is going to be at the very center of this case.”

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Published on September 25, 2008

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