Sydney – Leaked emails from two former prosecutors suggested the US military commissions to try detainees held at Guantanamo Bay are rigged, fraudulent and thin on evidence, Australian national radio reported on Monday.
In one of the emails obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, prosecutor Major Robert Preston wrote to his supervisor in March last year that the process was perpetrating a fraud on the American people.
“I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people,” Preston wrote, according to the ABC.
“Surely they don’t expect that this fairly half-assed effort is all that we have been able to put together after all this time.”
Of the 510 detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba, most of them captured during the US attack on Afghanistan in late 2001, a dozen have been declared eligible to be charged before the military commissions.
One of those facing trial is Australian David Hicks, who was allegedly fighting for the former Taliban rulers when he was captured in Afghanistan.
Preston said he could not continue to work on a process he considered morally, ethically and professionally intolerable, ABC reported, adding that he was transferred out of the Office of Military Commissions less than a month later.
A second email written by another prosecutor, Captain John Carr, who also ended up leaving the department, said the commissions appear to be rigged, ABC said.
“When I volunteered to assist with this process and was assigned to this office, I expected there would at least be a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently prepare cases against significant accused,” he was quoted as saying.
“Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganised effort by a skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to prosecute fairly low-level accused in a process that appears to be rigged.”
Carr said the prosecutors had been told by the chief prosecutor that the panel sitting in judgement on the cases would be hand-picked to ensure convictions.
“You have repeatedly said to the office that the military panel will be hand-picked and will not acquit these detainees and that we only needed to worry about building a record for the review panel,” he wrote.
Hicks’s military lawyer Major Michael Mori told ABC the documents were highly significant.
“For the first time, we’re seeing that concerns about the fairness of the military commissions extend to the heart of the process,” Mori said.
But Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway, legal adviser to the military commissions, told ABC that the Pentagon had conducted its own investigation and found no legal or ethical problems.
He said an inquiry had concluded that the comments by the prosecutors were the result of miscommunication, misunderstanding and personality conflicts.
“I think what we did is work on some restructuring in the office, there was some change in the way cases were processed but we found no evidence of any criminal misconduct, we found no evidence of any ethical violations,” he said.
Hemingway also denied that the commission panels were being hand-picked to ensure detainees were not acquitted.