IN OTHER WORDS: Down with it

For most of the 400 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the only chance to challenge their confinement as enemy combatants comes at their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.

No one in the Bush administration ever claimed these proceedings were full-blown trials in which the prisoners would have the benefit of an attorney.

But it was not until last week that a military insider revealed just what a travesty of justice the tribunals actually are. In an affidavit in a federal appeals case, Abraham charged that evidence against prisoners was often generalised and did not allege specific acts. He also charged military commanders with putting pressure on the officers serving on the tribunals.

Despite the Defence Department’s effort to downplay his criticism, Abraham had a sound basis for his observations. He was both a member of a tribunal and served as a liaison between the office conducting the tribunals and intelligence agencies with access to information about the prisoners. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that any trials of suspects should take place elsewhere, because “No matter how transparent, how open the trials, if they took place in Guantanamo... they would lack credibility.” Not only that, the combatant status review tribunals lack transparency, openness, and fairness.