November 20, 2008, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – Less than a month after throwing out an alleged confession obtained through torture, a judge late Wednesday rejected more evidence gathered through coercive interrogations in the military commission case against Afghan national Mohammed Jawad. Army judge Col. Stephen Henley held that evidence collected while Jawad was in U.S. custody cannot be admitted in his trial. Previously, the government had told the judge that Jawad’s alleged confessions were the centerpiece of its case against him.
“For the second time in less than a month, the judge has thrown out evidence at the heart of the government’s case against Mr. Jawad because it was obtained through torture. All of Mr. Jawad’s alleged confessions have now been suppressed and the government is left with no case,” said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “If the government continues to prosecute this case, it will only provide further evidence that the military commissions system is a sham aimed at obtaining convictions regardless of the facts or the law.”
Jawad, now about 23, has been in custody since he was captured at the age of 16 or 17 and is one of two Guantánamo prisoners the United States is prosecuting for acts allegedly committed when they were juveniles. Jawad is accused of throwing a grenade at two U.S. service members and an Afghan interpreter.
In September, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the lead prosecutor in Jawad’s case, resigned because he did not believe he could ethically proceed with the prosecution. Vandeveld charged that the government’s system for gathering and maintaining evidence “deprive[s] the accused of basic due process” and that the government may have suppressed evidence that would be helpful to the defense.
Scheduled for January 5, Jawad’s case is set to be the final military commission trial of the Bush administration.
“It would be a tragic legacy for the Bush administration if this case proceeds. In light of the fact that President-elect Obama has vowed to shut down the Guantánamo system, there is no reason this trial should go forward ten days before the new president is sworn into office,” said Shamsi. “After eight years of a Bush administration that aggressively rejected the Constitution and the rule of law, it is time to put these unfair and unlawful proceedings behind us.”
The ACLU is currently at Guantánamo as an independent observer and has been present at nearly every military commission hearing since 2004.