Friday, November 19, 2010

President Obama: judge, jury and executioner

A few years back, I blogged about the Jose Padilla trial.  Padilla, an American citizen charged with terrorism, was sentenced to long jail term despite scant evidence.  With so much fear-mongering in the media about terrorism, it seemed questionable to me whether a terror suspect could have a fair trial in the United States.

In hindsight, we can see that during the presidency of George W. Bush, justice might not have been delivered, but at least the system retained its basic integrity.

Glenn Greenwald writes about the conviction of accused Terrorist Ahmed Ghailani on one count of conspiracy to blow up a government building:
... even had he been acquitted on all counts, the Obama administration had made clear that it would simply continue to imprison him anyway under what it claims is the President's "post-acquittal detention power" --i.e., when an accused Terrorist is wholly acquitted in court, he can still be imprisoned indefinitely by the U.S. Government under the "law of war"even when the factual bases for the claim that he's an "enemy combatant" (i.e. that he blew up the two embassies) are the same ones underlying the crimes for which he was fully acquitted after a full trial. When he banned the testimony of the key witness, Judge Kaplan, somewhat cravenly,alluded to and implicitly endorsed this extraordinary detention theory as a means of assuring the public he had done nothing to endanger them with his ruling (emphasis added):
[Ghailani's] status as an "enemy combatant" probably would permit his detention as something akin to a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end even if he were found not guilty in this case.
Most news accounts are emphasizing that trying Ghailani in a civilian court was intended by the Obama DOJ to be a "showcase" for how effective trials can be in punishing Terrorists. That's a commendable goal, and Holder's decision to try Ghailani in a real court should be defended by anyone who believes in the rule of law and the Constitution. But given these realities, this was more "show trial" than "showcase" since the Government would simply have imprisoned him, likely forever, even if he had been acquitted on all counts.
"Post-acquittal detention power" makes a mockery of the whole notion of  a "justice" process in the United States.

We're looking at kangaroo courts in so far as President Obama's claim to "post-acquittal detention power" goes unchallenged. Kangaroo courts, of course, are spectacles for the masses where the outcome is determined in advance (i.e. continued imprisonment). The trial is merely a matter of going through the motions of justice.  

America's debate about military commissions Vs civilian trials appears to be part and parcel of an empty spectacle that gives cable news shows something to debate.   If the accused are to remain imprisoned, regardless of the outcome of trials, then the entire process must be considered a sham.  A legal system indifferent to the rights of the accused is incapable of delivering justice.

From having claimed the right to assassinate an American citizen, to his claim of "post-acquittal detention power," President Obama, a constitutional lawyer by training, is causing damage to the system of justice itself.

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