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The National Security Archive at George Washington University

CONSORTIUM NEWS - Edited by Robert Parry


June 03, 2003

US Has Plans for Guantanamo 'Death Camp'

'US plans death camp' (5/26/03 - The Courier-Mail [Queensland, AU])

The US commander of the Guantanamo detention camp has revealed that the US plans to build its own death row and execution chamber there. According to press reports, prisoners "would be tried, convicted and executed without leaving [Guantanamo's] boundaries, without a jury and without right of appeal" to civilian courts.

Under international law, Guantanamo is not US soil and is thus exempt from American law. However, persons held there also have no redress to the Cuban government. Meanwhile, the US has been subject to intense global protest for flouting international law concerning the prisoners. The US has also refused to designate them "prisoners of war," which would afford them important rights under the Geneva Conventions.

According to the US government, Camp Delta at Guantanamo (officially under naval jurisdiction) currently holds 680 prisoners -- or "detainees" in the official parlance -- including "at least three" who are between the ages of 13 and 15. It is believed the prisoners are from as many as 43 countries, although the Pentgon refuses to confirm or deny. Most of the prisoners are said to be Taliban and alleged members of al Qaida. Some prisoners from Iraq are also expected to be transferred there.

The "proposed" execution facilities will be part of a permanent detention center to be built there, replacing the temporary facility first set up in January 2002. Special military tribunals -- of highly dubious legality -- are expected to begin hearing cases later this summer. Most if not all of the "trials" are expected to be held in secret, ostensibly to protect US national security but rather conveniently shielding the proceedings from external scrutiny. According to Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, the tribunal's rules also allow for the use of evidence that would be thrown out in a US civilian court.

Only American attorneys -- mainly from the US military -- will be permitted for the prisoners, none of whom are US citizens. All attorneys will be required to have or obtain "secret grade" security clearances.

Under the rules of the tribunals, each trial will be presided over by between three and seven members. A two-thirds vote is required to convict the suspect. A unanimous vote by a seven-member commission is required to obtain a death sentence.

Any subsequent review of tribunal verdicts would be done by the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. The ultimate power of review resides with President Bush. There will be no recourse to any civilian or international courts whatsoever.

There is no precedent for the Guantanamo tribunals, even though the Bush Admin keeps alluding to the Nuremburg Trials following WWII.

To bring any of the Guantanamo prisoners before a military tribunal, President Bush must first sign an executive order finding a ''reason to believe'' that they should be charged with crimes and tried. The Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions is now preparing recommendations for such trials.

According to the Boston Globe, the Pentagon is indicating that at first only a few prisoners will be tried. Such a strategy would permit the US to learn what the world response would be to such tribunals, figure out how best to respond, and also wear down any popular opposition and protest simply by outlasting it. Meanwhile, the US would retain custody of all the other prisoners without creating any mitigating circumstances by subjecting them to trials that may be challenged abroad or in international court.

The "death camp" story broke in the May 25 edition of the London newspaper The Mail on Sunday. That paper does not have a web site. The story was picked up by an Australian paper, the Courier-Mail, and is beginning to spread slowly.

The British government claims it was not informed of US plans for execution facilities, according to the Courier-Mail.

Major-General Geoffrey Miller (US Army) -- who revealed the plans -- is the current commander of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, the combined missions to detain and interrogate the alleged Taliban and al Qaida prisoners.

Miller assumed the post in November 2002 and is serving a 2 year tour there. According to a military press release (archived here), his previous assignments include: Assistant Chief of Staff at the UN Command/Combined Forces in Seoul, South Korea; Deputy Commanding General of the Eighth Army United States Army, Korea; and Commanding General of XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery at Fort Bragg. According to, the XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery unit is a rapid deployment force that played key roles in the invasions of the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), and the Gulf War (1990-91).

[Read the source...]

The complete story:

US plans death campThe Courier-Mail [Queensland, Australia]
May 26, 2003

The US has floated plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, with its own death row and execution chamber.

Prisoners would be tried, convicted and executed without leaving its boundaries, without a jury and without right of appeal, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported yesterday.

The plans were revealed by Major-General Geoffrey Miller, who is in charge of 680 suspects from 43 countries, including two Australians.

The suspects have been held at Camp Delta on Cuba without charge for 18 months.

General Miller said building a death row was one plan. Another was to have a permanent jail, with possibly an execution chamber.

The Mail on Sunday reported the move is seen as logical by the US, which has been attacked worldwide for breaching the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war since it established the camp at a naval base to hold alleged terrorists from Afghanistan.

But it has horrified human rights groups and lawyers representing detainees.

They see it as the clearest indication America has no intention of falling in line with internationally recognised justice.

The US has already said detainees would be tried by tribunals, without juries or appeals to a higher court. Detainees will be allowed only US lawyers.

British activist Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, said: "The US is kicking and screaming against any pressure to conform with British or any other kind of international justice."

American law professor Jonathan Turley, who has led US civil rights group protests against the military tribunals planned to hear cases at Guantanamo Bay, said: "It is not surprising the authorities are building a death row because they have said they plan to try capital cases before these tribunals.

"This camp was created to execute people. The administration has no interest in long-term prison sentences for people it regards as hard-core terrorists."

Britain admitted it had been kept in the dark about the plans.

A Downing St spokesman said: "The US Government is well aware of the British Government's position on the death penalty."


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