Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Suddenly it is becoming quite clear....

On Jan. 20, 2006 we created a bit of a firestorm when we blogged about some newly issued guidelines from the U.S. Army. It seems that the U.S. Army had updated its execution protocol. Most of the changes were minor with one exception that seemed to stand out. The new protocol “allows other locations to be used for executions.”

(Previously, military executions took place in Leavenworth, Kansas, which is where military death row is located.)

You can see the original blog entry here. Reuters did a story on the development, and it was picked up by NPR and the Washington Post, among other outlets.

Anyways. So today I was scanning the national AP wire and this caught my eye.

Executions May Be Carried Out at Gitmo

Associated Press Writers

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- If six suspected terrorists are sentenced to death at Guantanamo Bay for the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. Army regulations that were quietly amended two years ago open the possibility of execution by lethal injection at the military base in Cuba, experts said Tuesday.

Any executions would probably add to international outrage over Guantanamo, since capital punishment is banned in 130 countries, including the 27-nation European Union.

Conducting the executions on U.S. soil could open the way for the detainees' lawyers to go to U.S. courts to fight the death sentences. But the updated regulations make it possible for the executions to be carried out at Guantanamo.

David Sheldon, an attorney and former member of the Navy's legal corps, said an execution chamber at Guantanamo would be largely beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

"I think that's the administration's idea, to try to use Guantanamo as a base to not be under the umbrella of the federal district courts," he said. "If one is detained in North Carolina or South Carolina in a Navy brig, one could conceivably file a petition of habeas corpus and because of where they're located, invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court."

The condemned men could even be buried at Guantanamo. A Muslim section of the cemetery at Guantanamo has been dedicated by an Islamic cultural adviser, said Bruce Lloyd, spokesman for the Guantanamo Naval Station. Among those buried elsewhere at the cemetery are U.S. servicemen.

"A small area of the cemetery has been fenced off and remains ready for the burial of any Muslim who may die here and not be repatriated to another country, for whatever reason," Lloyd told The Associated Press.

When two Saudis and a Yemeni committed suicide at Guantanamo in 2006, military officers said the men could be buried at the cemetery, but the remains were instead sent back to their homelands.

Up until recently, experts on military law said, it was understood that military regulations required executions to be carried out by lethal injection at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

But in January 2006, the Army changed its procedures for military executions, allowing "other locations" to be used. The new regulations say that only the president can approve an execution and that the secretary of the Army will authorize the location.

So, it appears folks are getting ready. Of course, issues such as guilt, innocence, habeas corpus, rules governing military tribunals, admissibility of evidence, etc., have yet to be resolved. One can only hope that the next administration and not this one will resolve them.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to see the U.S. Army's new guidelines, go here.

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