Detainee Lawyer: Closing Gitmo Not Enough
Posted Oct 21, 2008 7:31 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
Updated: Joseph Margulies, a challenger of both the Clinton and Bush administrations' detention policies, is wary of John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s harmonious promises to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay without subsequent promises of fair trials and due process for all U.S. detainees.
“The government can stop using Guantanamo, but Bagram now holds 500 to 600 people,” Margulies said of the U.S. military airport and housing complex in Afghanistan. “It’s not a matter of where you hold them, it’s how you hold them,” Margulies said. “If you have a basis to hold them, bring them to court. If you don’t, it’s an abuse of executive power.”
So, how would Margulies, lead counsel in Rasul v. Bush (2004), the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo detainees could challenge the lawfulness of their detention in federal court, advise the future inhabitant of the White House?
“Vis-a-vis interrogations, the U.S. must announce that we will comply with the Geneva Conventions,” Margulies said during a Q&A with ABA Journal Editor and Publisher Edward A. Adams. Click here for a podcast of the Q&A session.
The Geneva Conventions, which consist of four treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland, set the standards for international law for humanitarian concerns.
The FBI, which uses interrogation techniques in compliance with the conventions, is “the best in the world” at eliciting information from detainees, Margulies said. “The U.S. will restore substantial credibility at no loss of information gained from detainees by going back to what the FBI has done.”
The second item on Margulies’ agenda is increased access and review of government detentions, especially for the press corps and foreign states. “The U.S. must increase transparency regarding holding and interrogations,” Margulies argued. “The threat of terror is transnational, and you need transnational partnerships" to fight terrorism.
Transparency, he said, is "a strategic choice.” International cooperation is necessary in the placement of people, the extradition of criminal offenders and the implementation of justice.
And, what if Osama Bin Laden called Margulies asking for legal representation after being detained by U.S. troops? Margulies at first pantomimed slamming the phone down, but ultimately he said he'd take the case. “In times of public passion, that is when there is most needed a check on government power,” he said.
This was the first in what is expected to be a regular American Bar Association public program series.
Updated at 3:17 p.m. Oct. 22 to include podcast link.