The Great Debate

from The Great Debate UK:

No we can’t: Obama’s Guantanamo

Cori Crider

- Cori Crider represents 30 Guantánamo prisoners as an attorney with legal charity Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own. -

You would be hard-pressed to find a kid more thrilled on Barack Obama’s first day in office than Mohammed el Gharani. On January 21, had you been standing at the right corner of Guantanamo Bay, you could have heard him whoop for joy when the U.S. President made history—so we thought—by closing the prison where el Gharani grew up.

It is four months since that decision. The president gave a speech, "clarifying" his plans for Guantanamo on Thursday. But I fear we will all look back on May 21, 2009, as the day real history was made—The Day President Obama Un-Closed Guantanamo.

In many ways the die seems already cast. The President revived the military commissions last week, a move that risks stretching the prison’s life out for months. Just two prisoners have left Guantanamo since January. One, Binyam Mohamed, had humiliated the U.S. and the UK over his torture; the other, Lakhdar Boumediene, had been ordered released by a federal judge.

It is unclear what the administration is waiting for in Mohammed el Gharani’s case. He was found innocent in court, just like Boumediene, and he has a country to go to. He could climb on a plane to Chad tomorrow, were the administration simply to wake up and do what it has been ordered to do.

from The Great Debate UK:

Samantha Orobator: On trial in Laos

clivestaffordsmith-- Clive Stafford Smith is the director of Reprieve, the UK legal action charity that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Samantha Orobator, a 20 year old British woman, is languishing in the Phonthong Prison in Laos, on a capital charge of carrying a pound and a half of drugs in her luggage. Under the languid Laotian legal system, she would normally have waited two years or more for a trial. However, the Laotians accelerated the schedule, announcing late on Thursday that the trial would be held this Monday. They omitted a few of the niceties: She faced the firing squad without a lawyer.

Anna Morris, our Reprieve barrister from London, was scheduled to meet with her on Tuesday, which may have contributed to the chosen trial date. Criticizing the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is a criminal offense. Perhaps calling for a fair trial is considered too close to the line; the government reneged on its promise, made before Anna flew 9,344 kilometres (5,806 miles) from London to Laos, to allow three days of legal visits.