ABA condemns proposed DOJ restrictions on Guantanamo lawyers

[JURIST] The American Bar Association (ABA) [profession website] Friday criticized a US Department of Justice proposal [motion, PDF; brief, PDF] that lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees should be subject to tightened restrictions [proposed protective order, PDF], including limited access to their client and evidence. ABA President Karen J. Mathis said in a statement [text]:

The ability of lawyers to confer with their clients and advocate for justice for those clients is a deeply imbedded [sic] principle of American democracy. Arbitrary restrictions concerning the number of times and the ways that lawyers may confer with their clients in Guantanamo, or in any court, would threaten competent representation without at all advancing national security. The principles of freedom, due process and justice are too critical to our national character to be abandoned in any manner.
The case in which the proposal was advanced [JURIST report] involves Afghan detainee Haji Bismullah [Wikipedia profile]; oral arguments are scheduled for May 15 before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The Justice Department said that the new restrictions are necessary because lawyers have "caused unrest" at Guantanamo, such as hunger strikes [JURIST report] and other protests, have provided detainees with information about events outside the prison, and have provided media outlets information from detainees. Military officials seized legal papers [JURIST report] from Australian detainee David Hicks as part of its investigation into several detainee suicides at Guantanamo last year, and the DOJ later told a US court that paper provided by lawyers may have aided the suicide plot. The papers seized include notes marked "privileged attorney-client material" and suggest that detainees were misusing the attorney-client communication system [JURIST reports] in what Guantanamo commander Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. labeled acts of "asymmetric warfare." AP has more.


 

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