Legitimacy of military commissions trials questionable

One of the three men the Bush administration admitted to water boarding faced a judge for the first time yesterday in a military commission.

Prosecutors claim that Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri both planned and participated in the attack against the USS Cole, French supertanker the MV Limburg, and the failed attack on the USS The Sullivans.

This is the first time Nashiri has been seen in public since he disappeared into a CIA 'black site' in 2002. He was held nine years in the United Arab Emirates, and was tortured by CIA operatives.

Along with being waterboarded, Nashiri was threatened at gunpoint and with a power-drill, and his family's lives were threatened. It is alleged that confessions were obtained under torture.

Nashiri is being tried in a US military commission, a process that was recently revised by President Obama and Congress. However, there are still fewer protections and more flaws in commissions than in civilian court.

"The military commission system is broken beyond repair," said Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld, in a 2009 testimony to a House Judiciary subcommittee. Vandevald was a military commissions prosecutor who resigned in protest in 2008.

Commissions are too close to the Department of Defense and not open enough to the public and media. Both judges and jurors are chosen by the Department of Defense, and the public can hardly access information on proceedings.

Although in military commissions testimony obtained vie torture is inadmissible, but evidence obtained via torture can be allowed in certain cases. In federal courts, neither testimony nor evidence derived from testimony under torture is admissible.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, to the disgust of Nashiri's attorneys:

By torturing Mr. al-Nashiri and subjecting him to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the United States has forfeited its right to try him and certainly to kill him.

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