Thursday, September 01, 2005

Human Rights Revolution At Gitmo!

Big, exciting changes in the military 'trial' process for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon, wishing in its benevolence 'to model the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay more closely on the judge and jury structure', has implemented reforms that are bound to ensure that a Gitmo kangaroo hearing walks, talks and looks just like a Real Trial!

1. 'Each hearing will have a presiding officer who will effectively act as the judge and decide most questions of law.'

Well, sure! I mean, the next-best thing to an actual judge is obviously an officer acting as a judge. Right? Heck, everyone knows officers are eminently qualified to decide most questions of law. And what with the well-known dire shortage of real-life judges these days, we should just be grateful that these civic-minded 'presiding officer' people are willing and ready to step into the judicial breach and offer their no-doubt-enthusiastic lay opinions.

2. 'There will also be a number of panel members who will support the presiding officer but also work like a jury. They will determine findings and set sentences.'

OK, so some petty malcontents might point out that this setup bears precious little resemblance to anything enshrined elsewhere in our legal system as a 'jury', what with the 'support the presiding officer' part, the 'determine findings and set sentences' part, and of course the whole not-being-a-disinterested-body-of-your-peers technicality. But to them I say, Hey. Come on now. These people have a lot on their plates, they're working really hard and wearing many different, albeit directly conflict-of-interest-producing, judiciary hats. If it makes them feel better appreciated for their efforts to be called 'a jury', who are we to deny them that small satisfaction? Walk a mile in their combat boots, then maybe you won't be so quick to judge.

3. This is the best one! 'The accused will be present at the hearing, except when classified information is discussed.'

Now what's not to be excited about there? The accused gets a front-row seat at the majestic drama of his own extrajudicial tribunal! At least, during those parts of the hearing when 'classified information' is not being discussed. Last I checked, 'Good morning, ladies and gentleman' was still public-access intel, so that should guarantee the accused at the very least a good peek at the inside of the court room before he's escorted back to his stress position.

And people called these Courts of Star Chamber. That'll show 'em!

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