Thursday, October 07, 2010

Torture prevents justice

The first proper trial of a Guantanamo Bay inmate was scheduled to begin today, with Ahmed Ghailani facing charges over the 1998 US embassy bombings. But the trial has been delayed, after the judge gave the prosecution a lesson in the basics of justice: that any evidence extracted by torture must be excluded.

The US government's star witness was a man they allege sold explosives to Ghailani. But as he was identified as a result of "evidence" extracted from Ghailani under torture, his evidence has been excluded as poison fruit of a poison tree:

"The government has failed to prove that Abebe's testimony is sufficiently attenuated from Ghailani's coerced statements to permit its receipt in evidence," Kaplan wrote.


On that point, Kaplan said, "Abebe was identified and located as a close and direct result of statements made by Ghailani while he was held by the CIA. The government has elected not to litigate the details of Ghailani's treatment while in CIA custody. It has sought to make this unnecessary by asking the court to assume in deciding this motion that everything Ghailani said while in CIA custody was coerced."

The lesson in this for the US government is that if you hold people without trial for 6 years, ship them around multiple CIA blacksites where they are subjected to torture, then you make it very, very difficult to try them for their crimes. You can have justice, or you can have torture - but you cannot have both.