This week marked the beginning of the trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the first Guantánamo Bay prisoner to face trial by military commission. These first few days have highlighted the deficiencies in the process afforded these men.
High amongst these is Judge Allred’s decision that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not apply to Hamdan and that some statements obtained through coercion may be admitted as evidence. By allowing the prosecution to rely on self-incriminating statements obtained far from the battlefield without Miranda warnings and through coercion, Judge Allred has violated domestic and international fair trial standards. In the federal criminal justice system, a defendant must be warned that statements may be used against him before his interrogation begins, and corroborating evidence is required at trial to support such statements. Contrary to this norm, the LA Times reported today that much of the government’s case against Hamdan is based on self-incriminating statements alone.
The lack of crucial safeguards typically afforded defendants in the criminal justice system is only the latest proof that the military commission process is deeply flawed and that it cannot result in any just outcome.