January 27, 2007

Talks given on the Military Commissions Act

On January 11 and 24, 2007, Coalition for Peace Action (Central Bucks) and Upper Bucks for Democracy co-hosted Cristi Charpentier and Shawn Nolan, of the Federal Defender's Office, E.D. Pa., and recently returned from Guantánamo, where they have been working with detainee clients. They spoke about the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, the denial of habeas corpus, and the dangers they pose for U.S. Constitutional law and basic human rights.

Charpentier: “So my answer [to question] is that the Military Commissions Act does not afford the detainees a fair trial, and the Congress would have been better off to take heed from what the Supreme Court was truly telling them in the decision of Hamdan, which is that if you aren't going to use the civil courts, which is where I practice, use the Code of Military Justice. We have things in place. And so you as involved taxpayers—or else you wouldn’t be here, you as involved citizens, you know, should really hear that.”

Nolan challenges the administration’s claims about who is imprisoned at Guantánamo and whether U.S. treatment of detainees accords with U.S. and international law. “It’s outrageous. This is a classic study of government out of control. They go on TV and say, ‘We don’t torture,’ but they do!” He also disputes the government’s claim that “these are the worst of the worst.” According to Seton Hall Law School Professor Mark Denbeaux's analysis, “only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86 percent of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance.” Many had been turned in by bounty hunters responding to U.S. leaflets dropped over Afghanistan promising “wealth and power beyond your dreams . . . millions of dollars.”

“They’ve been stripped of habeas corpus, and they can’t challenge their detention,” Nolan says. “Some of them have been there five years. There’s no due process.”

Charpentier and Nolan participated in the Guantánamo teach-in on October 5, 2006, at Temple University's Beasley School of Law. Charpentier grew up in Doylestown and graduated from CB West. Raised in the area, Nolan graduated from Lansdale Catholic High School.