At yesterday’s press briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used selective memory to retell the story of how combatant status review tribunals in Gitmo came about and just how “appropriate” such hearings are.
Rumsfeld’s claim: After deciding that the enemy combatants were not covered by the Geneva Conventions, the administration “established procedures that would provide appropriate legal process” to enemy combatants. These included combatant status review tribunals.
The full story: Actually, after September 11th President Bush tried to hold combatants indefinitely, without giving them access to court systems where they could challenge their detention. In Rasul v Bush, the Supreme Court rebuffed the administration: “both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seized as potential terrorists can challenge their treatment in U.S. courts.” The ruling forced the administration to create “procedures that would provide appropriate legal process” to enemy combatants. But, instead of using already established and internationally recognized legal procedures for detained persons — the Article 5 hearings of the Geneva Convention — the administration stubbornly created combatant status review tribunals.
Rumsfeld’s claim: The procedures, which include the combatant status review tribunals, “go beyond what is required even under the Geneva Conventions.”
The full story: The tribunals are an illegal and unconstitutional alternative to the process which the Supreme Court determined detainees are entitled. Earlier this year, federal Judge Joyce Hens Green echoed the Supreme Court ruling by declaring that “the Bush administration must allow [Guantanamo] prisoners…to contest their detention in U.S. courts.” Green was forced to return to the issue because the special tribunals established by the Pentagon as an alternative were “illegal” and unconstitutional. Far from going “beyond what is required even under the Geneva Conventions,” the hearings had denied detainees the “most basic fundamental rights.”