Geoffrey Robertson: Don't let's pretend this is a court of law

This is not a trial but a long military execution of men who devoutly wish to be executed

Share
Related Topics

Clemenceau's aphorism that "military justice is to justice as military music is to music" is reflected in the jarring discord from "Camp Justice", the absurdly named court complex at Guantanamo where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and others are on trial for perpetrating 9/11. Despite President Obama's best intentions, this spectacle is not a trial at all but rather a prolonged military execution of men who devoutly wish to be executed.

The fundamental definition of a court is that its judges should be independent and impartial. But these military officers are soldiers employed by the same department of state as the military prosecutors. The officers must decide between the prosecutors and the declared enemies in the dock, whose cohorts have tried to kill their soldier comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the presiding officer has served.

There can be no pretence that this is a court of law, as Obama recognised by promising to close Guantanamo and have the KSM case heard by a real judge and a civilian jury in New York. But this caused political panic, either from fear of having the defendants physically present on the US mainland or from fear that a fair trial might result in someone being acquitted. So the lengthy charade at "Camp Justice" has commenced.

The pity of it is that there are real issues of guilt or innocence that demand impartial judgment. The confessions of the much waterboarded KSM are doubtful not only because they have been procured by torture but because he is a boastful liar who admitted at his last hearing that, "I wish to be martyr for a long time".

The defendants originally wanted to plead guilty and become martyrs as quickly as possible but have now been given the opportunity to discredit the proceedings as well. They have adopted the "Charles I gambit" of not recognising the court – and because its judges lack independence, this body is, indeed, unrecognisable as a court. These ploys would be seen as pathetic play-acting if they were practised in a real court.

There can be no doubt that the lawyers and officials involved in this military exercise will do their best to be fair and will wrestle with questions about the admissibility of torture and hearsay evidence. But the crowning irony comes from America's obsession with the death penalty. These defendants want nothing more than to be killed mid-jihad, by Americans, because, in their perverted belief system, this provides their fast track to Paradise. What they dread most is having to spend the rest of their lives on a prison farm in upstate New York. The ultimate absurdity of "Camp Justice" is that, at serious cost to America's reputation, that country is in the process of giving its worst enemies exactly what they want.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is a former UN appeal judge and the author of 'Crimes Against Humanity'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral