February 18, 2013

Symposium to examine Guantanamo Bay’s future

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Legal scholars will examine the future of Guantanamo Bay, litigating detainee cases there, and the role of U.S. constitutional and international law during a symposium at the Southern Illinois University School of Law.

The symposium is 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 22, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building courtroom at SIU Carbondale.

William K. Lietzau, who oversees detainee policies as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for rule of law and detainee policy with the U.S. Department of Defense, will deliver the keynote: “Detention in 21st Century Armed Conflict,” at 1 p.m.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend any of the panel sessions.  To arrange interviews with panelists, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

The symposium is particularly relevant for attorneys and government officials involved with making policy that involves suspected terrorists.  Admission is free, and the event is open to the public.  Up to 4.5 hours of minimum continuing legal education credit is available.  Registration and symposium information is available at law.siu.edu/cle.php.

In addition to Lietzau, panelists will include a prosecutor and a former lead defense attorney for Guantanamo Bay detainees.  David Frakt, a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and former defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions, will be in the 9:15 a.m. session that looks at “Guantanamo Bay and the Constitution.”  Capt. Edward White, with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps Office of Chief Prosecutor, is among the presenters at 2 p.m. who will examine litigating detainee cases at Guantanamo Bay.

Other panelists include Benjamin Davis, associate professor at the University of Toledo College of Law; Eric Jensen, associate professor of law at Brigham Young University; Michael J. Strauss, a professor at the Center for Diplomatic and Strategic Studies in Paris, France, and David Glazier, a professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Law school faculty Christopher W. Behan, Cindy Galway Buys, and Lucien Emery Dervan each visited Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the past 18 months.  Buys said there are more than 160 detainees still there but only five are currently on trial, while others are looking at indefinite detentions with no formal charges filed.

With pretrial hearings under way in a number of high-profile cases, Behan said it is a good time “to bring in some top scholars and government officials to discuss the future of the detention facilities and the trials by military commission.”

Prior to coming to SIU, Behan served 11 years with the Army Judge Advocate General Corps.  The symposium will further the scholarly discussion on the future of detention facilities and trials by the military commission at Guantanamo Bay, he said.

Behan is part of the afternoon panel with White, and will discuss issues relating to the use of classified evidence in trials by military commissions.  Behan will analyze and compare classified information issues and procedures in the military commissions, federal district court, and the International Criminal Court.

Buys visited Guantanamo Bay in fall 2011, and was inside buildings where lower security threat detainees stay.  The facilities for the detainees are comparable to the Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin where immigration detainees stay, she said.

Guantanamo Bay is an issue that affects the United States in terms of its international image and maintaining domestic security, said Buys, who teaches international and constitutional law and is director of the law school’s international law programs. As part of her panel, Buys will focus on international law and to what extent the United States is or should be taking international law into account when determining what to do with detainees.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in four Guantanamo Bay detainee-related cases that the government was not in compliance with U.S. Constitutional law and the Geneva Convention laws of war and must abide by international treaty obligations, Buys said.  But detainees also seek remedy in international forums outside United State jurisdiction; for example, Algerian Djamel Ameziane filed a complaint with the U.S. before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging torture and other harsh interrogation techniques as well as unlawful indefinite detention.  Despite more than 10 years at Guantanamo Bay, there are no formal charges against him and no pending trial.  Detained since 2002, Ameziane’s capture came while he was trying to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan.

The impact of detainees going to international venues to “try to force the U.S. to change their policies” carries some impact.

“The U.S. is not getting the cooperation that it had from other countries in pursuing this war on terror.  Without that international cooperation it’s going to be much harder for us to be effective,” Buys said.

Buys is pleased Lietzau will speak at the symposium, and hopes panelists will make suggestions that he can take and “give thought to whether that will improve what we are doing.”

“I believe we can have a really good conversation about what the law should be regarding these detainees,” she said.

Behan and Dervan visited Guantanamo Bay in October.

Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility “may be the most scrutinized prison in the world, and the trials by military commission among the most controversial trials in modern history,” said Behan, a former Army JAG officer.

There is a strong desire to follow the law and carry out objectives set by Congress and the President in detaining and trying people there, Behan said.  But there is also a legal, moral and practical difficulty in continuing the detentions and trials.

“Undeniably, American policymakers have made choices that turned Guantanamo Bay into a notorious and negative international symbol.  And yet, many of the detainees are dangerous people with an implacable hatred toward our country.  They have committed serious crimes and there may not be anywhere else in the world they could be detained and brought to trial,” Behan said.