Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 assaults, together with 4 co-defendants appeared in a military courtroom at Guantanamo Bay this week for the primary time because the coronavirus pandemic started.
The growing old Mohammed, now 57 years outdated, his lengthy beard tinted orange, smiled and gestured along with his 4 co-defendants – all saved outdoors the courtroom in isolation on the high-security United States jail.
Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, and Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mohammed face the loss of life penalty in a trial by military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay that has but to start out and stays bogged in course of 20 years after the assaults.
The 5 are accused of conflict crimes within the September 11 plane hijackings that resulted within the deaths of 2,976 individuals.
A brand new military choose has been assigned to the trial, beforehand anticipated to start out in 2022 however now more likely to be additional delayed as attorneys for the defence put together to attack the authorized basis of the military fee.
“These proceedings are grotesquely substandard under notions of due process, international law, and … regard for the dignity of human beings,” stated Gary Sowards, who took the lead on Mohammed’s defence in 2019.
Mohammed’s authorized workforce can be submitting a collection of motions designed to problem the legitimacy of the military commissions and produce to mild the CIA’s torture of Mohammed and different detainees, Sowards stated on Wednesday.
Indicative of the murky outlook, the brand new choose, US Air Force Lt Col Matthew McCall, assured attorneys in Guantanamo this week that he has no plans to depart the bench when he turns into eligible to retire in three years.
“I don’t feel the need to rush to try to get this case done on my watch. I’m going to be here,” McCall, now age 50, stated this week.
McCall is the fourth choose assigned to the case and remains to be “trying to get up to speed” on its checkered historical past, he stated.
Human rights advocates say the trial is so fraught with authorized obstacles it could by no means attain a passable conclusion.
“Most families are awaiting justice and the reason they are waiting is because the military commission, and Guantanamo itself, are so fundamentally flawed they cannot provide any semblance of justice,” stated Andrea Prasow, deputy director at Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC.
The military commissions at Guantanamo have been established by former President George W Bush in 2001 to prosecute detainees accused of organising the September 11 and different assaults outdoors the bounds of US legal legislation.
The US Navy base at Guantanamo is on the island of Cuba, the place inmates don’t have most of the protections of US legislation and the place successive administrations have refused to use worldwide conventions.
Now, proceedings towards Mohammed and the 4 different alleged co-conspirators are enmeshed in a authorized nether zone, caught between US military and legal authorized precedents and complex by the CIA’s torture of the accused.
“The problem is we’ve just created entirely new rules. There’s still debate over questions like does the Constitution and Bill of Rights apply,” stated Jonathan Hafetz, a professor at Seton Hall University Law School who has advocated returning the case to US federal courts.
“You’ll see more delays, more uncertainty, more dysfunction, because the United States is pressing on a failed experiment of military commissions,” Hafetz informed Al Jazeera.
Ongoing authorities secrecy across the CIA interrogations of the 5 males, greater than 500,000 pages of proof saved below seal, and the tribunal’s remoted setting on the Guantanamo jail additional stop a good course of.
In 2009, former President Barack Obama promised to shut the jail at Guantanamo and then-Attorney General Eric Holder directed the trial of the 5 September 11 defendants moved to federal court docket in New York City.
But public backlash and political stress from Congress compelled Obama to again down on the plan to conduct the trial within the US as an alternative of Cuba, and after a two-and-half-year pause, proceedings returned to the military tribunal in Guantanamo.
“The rot at all of it is torture,” stated Scott Roehm, director of the Washington, DC, workplace of the Center for Victims of Torture, a nongovernmental advocacy group.
“Guantanamo should never have been stood up in the first place. It’s animating philosophy was creating a place outside the reach of the law so that these men can be held for the rest of their lives,” Roehm informed Al Jazeera.
In 2014, Obama casually acknowledged in a press convention “we tortured some folks”. In his 2010 memoir Decision Points, Bush stated (*20*) he permitted the use of waterboarding and different interrogation methods.
A 2014, after a three-year investigation, a US Senate report on the CIA’s post-September 11 programme of detentions and torture in black websites revealed the interrogations of 119 individuals captured by the US have been extra brutal than had been beforehand admitted by US officers.
Mohammed was captured by the US in a covert operation in 2003 and rendered to CIA black websites in Afghanistan and Poland, the place he was waterboarded 183 instances and sexually attacked, in line with his lawyer.
“A terrible crime occurred, but because of the choices of the US government on how to pursue the alleged perpetrators, there’s no glimmer of hope,” Prasow informed Al Jazeera.