July 15, 2007

Scraps from Guantanamo

* An exemplary AP piece about "at least nine" Guantanamo inmates who were apparently prisoners and torture victims of the Taliban or Al Qaeda, but were mistaken by U.S forces for actual members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda and sent to Cuba in 2001. The reporter interviews a few who have since been released, including one who observed delicately: “The bitterness of Guantanamo overshadowed the bitterness of being jailed by al-Qaeda.”(via Eric Umansky.)

* Meanwhile, for some time numerous detainees have been approved for release, but unable to leave Cuba because the State Department is unable to guarantee that they will not be tortured upon their return to their home country. (One wishes this kind of fastidiousness about torture had been employed more consistently over the last six years.) Clive Stafford Smith, a UK-based human rights lawyer who represents Sami Al Haj , the detained Al Jazeera cameraman I write about here , reports that Clint Williamson, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, has been quietly meeting with officials in North Africa to negotiate repatriation of detainees.

* Some very interesting numbers that didn't get much attention: officially, the Defense department intends to try 75-80 detainees in military tribunals, keep about 50 "for the duration of the conflict" and free the rest when it can figure out how to do that/where to send them. (More than 380 have been released already).

* 50 recent high-school grads who were part of this year's class of Presidential Scholars handed President Bush a letter asking him to "cease illegal renditions and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants." Awkward conversation followed.