Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A show trial

Six and a half years on, the US has finally got around to charging six men for their involvement in the September 11th attacks. But rather than trying them in a proper court, they will instead be prosecuted before a military commission in Guantanamo Bay. If convicted, they may be subjected to the death penalty.

This is a mockery of the judicial process which reduces justice for September 11 to the level of a show trial. The US military commissions do not conform to fundamental standards of justice. They allow hearsay as evidence, secret evidence which is not shown to the accused, even "evidence" extracted by torture. Add in biased judges who cannot possibly be said to be independent, and restrictions on the accused's right to representation, and the result is a process that makes Saddam Hussein's farce look good. And as with Saddam, the outcome isn't in any doubt: no matter what the evidence, these men will be summarily convicted and murdered.

make no mistake: September 11 was a crime, for which there should be justice. But that justice should happen in open court, conforming to basic standards of justice and fairness, and under ordinary rules of evidence. The United States would not accept the prosecution of its own citizens under the rules it proposes for its military commissions; it should apply no less a standard to those it prosecutes itself.