Oh my. Seems one of the big news stories Saturday morning is the fact that some of our Guantánamo clients get frustrated at the lack of progress as we try to get them out of that hell hole. Can you blame them? Of course not. These men have sat at Guantánamo for more than five years and most of them are innocent of any wrong doing. Our government knows most of these men were picked up by mistake... First we dropped thousands of fliers all over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and who knows where else, offering huge bounties for "murderers and terrorists" and then we were duped into buying these guys from the Pakistani's and the Afghan war lords... and we paid a handsome price for them too. Of course our military could not be bothered trying to figure out who these men were so we just paid up and took them all. Eighty-two of the men being held at Guantánamo were cleared by our government for release more than 2 years ago because the government admitted that they were captured "by mistake." Since then the government stopped admitting the mistakes and stopped "clearing" the men because it is too embarrassing (even for these clowns) to have all of these men cleared for such a long time but not released... and, get this, the only country we could cajole into taking detainees that we captured by mistake has been Albania... I guess the coalition of the willing is not quite so willing on this score!
When I took on the representation of Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and later Mr. Razak Ali I knew that this would not be any typical legal representation. For one thing the litigation in court has all been stayed (put on hold) since before I was even involved... You see attorneys have only been allowed at Guantánamo for less than three years... and the Judges have not ruled on any matter of substance for more than two and a half of those years... In fact, the only thing the lower courts have been willing to rule on are procedural matters and attorney visit issues... and even these issues have not been ruled on by all of the judges.
As an attorney for my two clients I learned very quickly that the representation was going to involve doing things beyond the typical lawyer stuff... I have now become a quasi-diplomat and a journalist (of sorts...). I have traveled to countries that I hoped might be sympathetic to the plight of my two clients... I have met with representatives from countries near and far and I have asked these representatives to help my clients....even though they do not want to help my country.... And I have taken on this new career of journalism to help spread the word about what is going on both inside and outside Guantánamo, as it relates to these men who have been held without charge for more than five years.
So the bottom line is that the court process has been at a standstill almost since attorneys have been allowed in the door. If some men have in fact given up on their attorneys or on our legal system it would not be surprising to me (although I personally believe the number is quite small based on my frequent conversations with the other attorneys). But this is a frustrating process and although I never had much hope from the legislative side while the Republicans were in control I do admit that I had a faith in our judicial system that I no longer hold. At one time our judicial system was such that people around the world looked at it in envy. I can only imagine that when word came to these men who were languishing at Guantánamo that they were finally going to have attorneys and could challenge their imprisonment in court, that many got their hopes up that justice was just around the corner. Now we know that if justice is around the next corner it is a very long block.
So yes, on occasion our clients, who are now sitting in solitary confinement and quickly going insane... sometimes get upset at us and our system of law... but it doesn't last long because they know that for now anyway, we are their life line.
I head back to Guantánamo on Monday. It takes a full day to get there and a full day to get back. I will spend three days with my two clients. I will tell them everything I have been doing these last two months since my last visit (and I have been doing a lot). As always I tell my clients the good news and the bad news... and as usual there is very little in the way of good news. My clients will be frustrated, as well they should be. I share their frustration. But the other Guantánamo attorneys and I are doing our best and we have been fighting against the odds and our clients know this. And so they wait, and hope.
See my blog at http://gtmoblog.blogspot.com/