Secret Witnesses in Guantánamo Trials
An accuser's motive to lie might be apparent to the accused, but what happens when the accused isn't allowed to learn the accuser's identity? Despite the administration's assurances that Guantánamo detainees will receive fair trials, Omar Ahmed Khadr will begin his trial with a significant handicap: he won't know who will be testifying against him.
Defense lawyers preparing for the war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Guantánamo detainee have been ordered by a military judge not to tell their client — or anyone else — the identity of witnesses against him, newly released documents show.
The right to confront witnesses is essential to a fair trial. How can a detainee's exercise of that right be meaningful when the detainee doesn't even know who the witness is?
Defense lawyers say the order would hamper their ability to build an adequate defense because they cannot ask their client or anyone else about prosecution witnesses, making it difficult to test the veracity of testimony.
In the administration's view, the vague fear of "terrorist retaliation" against their anonymous witnesses outweighs the accused's right to know the identity of his accuser. So much for the empty promise of fair trials for the Guantánamo detainees.
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