Pakistani prisoner, Majid Khan, who remains at Guantánamo years after being convicted under a secret plea deal based on torture evidence, continues to await his final sentence. Ahead of his latest scheduled sentencing hearing, his defence team and the military commission convening authority have reached an agreement to prevent CIA officers from testifying about his torture during the proceeding, which his defence sought to help mitigate his sentence. In return for protecting and hiding the CIA’s crimes against humanity, “The jury will be instructed to impose a sentence of 25 to 40 years; but under the new agreement the judge will reduce it to 11 to 14 years (including time served). The military judge, Army Colonel Douglas K. Watkins, already lopped off an additional year because of prosecutorial misconduct. The result is that Mr. Khan could be released as early as next year, depending on the extent of his cooperation.” Although this is a positive outcome for Khan, the agreement means that a landmark court decision allowing evidence of his torture to be used in his defence now has to be set aside: “Apparently, the government thinks it is of the utmost importance not just to bury evidence of CIA torture, but to ensure a decision that could have allowed other detainees to expose their abuse is erased from the books.”
At the same time, in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the military judge in his case allowed prosecutors “to introduce a document containing statements that the defense said were “obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” (CIDT). Judge Acosta’s decision found that the law barring such statements applies only to evidence at trial, not to their use in interlocutory matters.”
More worryingly over the past month, the trial chamber at the International Criminal Court in The Hague has admitted statements as evidence the accused made while being allegedly subject to torture.
Three more prisoners have been cleared for release by the periodic review board, bringing the total number of prisoners cleared to 9, almost a quarter of the total prisoner population. One man has been cleared for over a decade. The latest prisoners to be cleared for release are the oldest prisoner, Pakistani Saifullah Paracha, Yemeni Uthman Abd Rahim Uthman and Pakistani Abdul Rabbani. Being cleared for release is not the same as being released, and following two decades of arbitrary detention for each of these men, the US must ensure that they are released under conditions where their safety and human rights are ensured and they are not subject to further US surveillance or further persecution.