Thursday 23 November 2017

Guantanamo critic is removed from jury of Afghan child soldier

Robert Verkaik from Camp Delta

A SERVING US Army officer who told a court he agreed with President Barack Obama that the Guantanamo Bay prison camps should be closed down has been removed from a jury hearing allegations of war crimes against a former child soldier.

Prosecutors claimed the unnamed lieutenant colonel had "pre-conceived" views that might harm their case.

But the exclusion of the officer who had been called to sit as a juror in the controversial military commission trial of Omar Khadr at the US naval base in Cuba has only added to the perception of prejudice.

Mr Khadr is accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade and helping to make IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to be used against American forces when he was 15 years old in Afghanistan.

Among the seven jurors remaining on the panel are officers who have lost close friends or colleagues fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. One had a friend killed in the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon.

During questioning of the 15 potential panelists, all but one told the court they either believed Guantanamo Bay should stay open, or did not hold an opinion on the subject. None of them thought the US had used torture to extract confessions.

In this context, the lieutenant colonel, who said he agreed with his commander-in-chief on the policy of Guantanamo and torture, presented a lone voice of international consensus.

During the jury selection process, the army officer -- who described himself as a military academic who also taught soldiers -- was asked by prosecutor Jeff Groharing if he had any views about Guantanamo.

He replied: "I agree with the president the detention facility should be closed down."

Asked specifically which policies had led him to this conclusion he authoritatively cited examples including; charge without trial, torture, rendition and the denial of access to members of the International Red Cross to detainees held in secret locations. He went on to say that he believed a small number of detainees may have been killed while in American custody, but added: "I don't think my views differ from those of the president."

By the time he had admitted that he would be "suspicious" of any evidence obtained under torture his fate was sealed.

The army officer's views were virtually identical to those articulated by Mr Obama during the presidential campaign in 2008, when he called Guantanamo, "a sad chapter in American history". (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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