Gitmo Detainees Reject Defense Counsel

Some detainees among the alleged enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay flatly refuse legal counsel. Others at the U.S. military prison merely refuse to open legal mail.

Their rebuffs of those who seek to help them escape their indefinite detention apparently are motivated by distrust of Americans and a sense that having a lawyer in their corner won’t make any difference, reports the New York Times. “Your role is to polish Bush’s shoes and make the picture look good,” one detainee wrote his attorney earlier this year.

Without an established process to get all the detainees’ cases to trial, and amidst Justice Department efforts to limit lawyers’ access to their clients, lawyers may have difficulty battling the perception that there is little they can do to help. Admits Mark P. Denbeaux, a New Jersey law professor, “It’s pretty hard to say we’re offering them anything.” One of his two clients pleaded for toothpaste, the Seton Hall University School of Law academic recounts, but when he brought it a guard confiscated it. When he told his client, “They took it from me,” Denbeaux says, “he said: ‘What good are you? You can’t even get me toothpaste.’ ”

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