Conflict & Justice

Defending a Guantanamo detainee

DF argued that his client's case should be dismissed because MJ was subjected to sleep deprivation, a form of torture. DF says when the Pentagon called on military lawyers to defend prisoners, he volunteered: I felt strongly that the detainees deserved the best defense available and these hearings needed to have legitimacy. (Were a lot of people responding to the Pentagon's request for lawyers?) Yes, probably more who wanted to join prosecution than defense but the chief defense council has pulled together a solid group. (Tell us more about your client, MJ.) He was 16 or 17 at the time he was arrested in December 2002. He spent much of his youth in a refugee camp in Pakistan. For most of the time he has been in solitary confinement. Despite that he's a polite young man and he's always worried about the repercussions this will have on my own career. (Can you tell us what the status of the case is right now?) I've filed a number of motions to dismiss, based on the torture, MJ's status as a juvenile, one based on lack of jurisdiction. I suspect the lawyer will rule on that in t he next two or three weeks. (A lot of questions have been raised about what to do with these detainees, are military commissions the way to go?) I think military commissions could be good, but the current procedures don't guarantee a fair trial for the detainees. I think the Uniform Code of Military Justice would've been much better off for this situation. (What was the thrust of your closing argument?) It was that the US has acted in a lawless manner, we've abandoned our traditional role and reliance on the rule of law. (What do you make of the argument that these are special times so special accommodations can be made for justice?) I don't buy that these are special times. There are obligations that the US has, based on treaties and such. My arguments talk about defending not the US, but the US Constitution when at times of war. Tragically, under the pressure to defend Americans from terrorist attack, we've lost sight of our obligation to defend the constitution. The constitution says all men should be treated equally and with respect. The detainees at Guantanamo are all human beings and all worthy of humane treatment. We've lost our right as a champion of human rights. We should restore a bit of America's moral luster and dismiss these charges. (What was the reaction to your words?) There were some tears and a lot of silence. Beyond that, I have only received positive feedback from around the world, I have not received any negative attention. I am confident the administration is determined to have fair trials and no one will interfere with that.

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.