David Frakt: This announcement is really in stark contrast to what the United States has done regarding victims of the war on terror.
Lisa Mullins: David Frakt teaches criminal law at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. He represented Gitmo detainee Mohammed Jawad, who was released last year.
Frakt: It's just a very sharp contrast to see that Great Britain has decided to settle this, to acknowledge that there was wrongdoing, that there was suffering. Whereas here in the United States, even where we have people who clearly were innocent — there were cases of mistaken identity. There was a Canadian citizen who was rendered and tortured; and there's no real doubt about the facts. But nevertheless we have refused to even consider compensation. And under international law, we do have an obligation to provide redress for the victims of torture and so far we are not fulfilling that.
Mullins: But what could the redress be now? I mean you're talking about sort of a British-style agreement or settlement, or something quite different? Because the culpability is quite different.
Frakt: Right, well, it would probably require congressional legislation and authorization of funds. And I just think that there is no political will to do something like that right now.
Mullins: If we talk about, you know, in terms of setting aside money, and there's one particular detainee who, under this British agreement, will get 1.6 million dollars — If we're talking about financial issues, certainly there is a problem in terms of finances, both in the U.K. and here in the United States. So is that what accounts for the lack of political will? Because the game board seems pretty even there.
Frakt: Well, I just think there is a perception that the detainees who are released are not really innocent; that somehow the U.S. just couldn't prove it. There's still skepticism about mistreatment of detainees because the government has so successfully blocked information being released about what really went on. So
Mullins: Let me just stop you there. Why is the perception different here from in Britain, then?
Frakt: If you look at Great Britain, they've had a full-scale, very open inquiry into British complicity, and public hearings. And I think there's a lot of outrage in Great Britain over what was done in Great Britain's name, to cooperate with the United States. And many people there feel that their complicity with the U.S. made them a target, such as for the London subway bombings. While, whereas here in the United States, since we have not had a successful attack since 9/11, a lot of people are really supportive of the policies that they feel have kept them safe. Although I would argue that it simply has pushed terrorism abroad.
Mullins: Could you bring us home to your own work as having represented one of the Afghan detainees, Mohammed Jawad?
Frakt: Yes. Mohammed Jawad was declared to be not an enemy combatant, to be wrongfully held at Guantanamo, and by order of a writ of habeas corpus, from a federal judge, he was ordered released in August of 2009, after nearly seven years at Guantanamo. I no longer represent him. My job was to get him out of Guantanamo. But one of my co-counsel has retired from the military and is representing him as a civilian attorney, and has sought compensation for the nearly seven years that he spent wrongfully at Guantanamo, and for the specific acts of abuse, arguably rising to the level of torture, that he experienced, including sleep deprivation, and beatings, and so forth. And at this point there is simply no remedy available for Mohammad Jawad and others like him in the U.S. courts. So what we are doing is, after shattering people's lives and in Mohammed's case he spent basically his high school and college years in Guantanamo. And releasing him without any effort to rehabilitate him; without any social services; without any compensation; without so much as an apology. That does not enhance the United States' reputation in the international community for being a fair-minded and respecting human rights.
Mullins: David Frakt teaches at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve JAG corps, and represented Gitmo detainee Mohammed Jawad. Thanks very much.
Frakt: My pleasure.