Sunday, July 13, 2008
Surreal self-representation in Gitmo
Four of five men accused of masterminding the September 11 attacks in the US, among them Walid bin Attash and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (prior IntLawGrrls posts here), are insisting on representing themselves (Gitmo military commissions building at right). Practical obstacles and exchanges with the judge, former military-commission critic Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann, make for surreal reading. For example, Attash's hearing was stopped before it began when he explained his inability to respond to a court filing: he'd only just been given it, while handcuffed and unable to read it. After a recess during which he read the filing, Attash asked why he couldn't read the classified reports necessary to prepare his defense, pointing out that the execution that likely awaited him and his co-accused would protect the evidence better than anything else. Answer: "you don't have the necessary security clearance." Another defendant, Ammar al-Baluchi, had written a legal motion and 2 letters to the judge, who never received them (defense lawyers have been saying for some time that detainees' communications are routinely censored, delayed or blocked entirely). But at least Baluchi had access to paper! Mohammed was told paper was unauthorized, so couldn't even begin drafting a motion. Judge Kohlman didn't seem to notice the catch-22 in his solution: since procedures must be followed even to obtain paper, the defendant will have to...file a motion.