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Due Process for Torturers but not the Tortured

dog Abu Ghraib

Although the architects of the torture policy of the United States have so far escaped prosecution for their crimes, a few low level soldiers involved in torture at Abu Ghraib have been prosecuted. CNN reported Thursday that a dog handler is appealing his conviction:

He’s already served the time, but lawyers Thursday argued to clear his name as onetime U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Smith appeals a conviction for the torture of detainees once held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


A military panel found Smith guilty in March 2006 on allegations that he used his military working dog to illegally "terrorize and frighten" detainees as part of interrogation techniques at the U.S.-managed facility in Baghdad.

AP adds that there is a second appeal:

The court is scheduled to hear a second Abu Ghraib appeal Wednesday. Spc. Sabrina D. Harman, of Lorton, Va., was convicted of participating in an episode where wires were placed in the hands of a hooded detainee who was made to stand on a box and told he would be electrocuted if he fell. She was also was photographed giving a smiling "thumbs-up" beside a pyramid of naked, handcuffed detainees.

What’s most remarkable here is that those convicted of carrying out torture have been afforded due process, but when we move to the victims of torture, due process is no longer a consideration. Here is what the ACLU had to say recently about the military commissions process at Guantanamo:

The government indicated today it would ask for a further delay in the Guantánamo military commissions cases of the defendants charged in the 9/11 attacks. The proceedings are currently scheduled to resume on Monday, September 21, and it will be up to the military judge whether or not to grant a requested delay. The government’s request would come on the heels of a petition filed by military defense lawyers on September 10 asking a federal court to halt the unconstitutional military commissions system.

"Delaying these sham proceedings will not solve the problem of their inherent illegitimacy," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It’s time for the Obama administration to put an end to the shameful Guantánamo military commissions and move these cases to federal courts where there are actual trials and real justice can be served. Our tried-and-true criminal justice system is more than capable of handling terrorism cases while providing fundamental rights and maintaining credibility."

Why are the torturers afforded due process while the torturerd are not? And while we’re at it, since we have demonstrated that prosecution of some torturers works, can we move ahead with prosecuting all those who tortured and those who enabled or ordered them?

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Jim White

Jim White

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