[JURIST] Lawyers charged with defending detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] said Tuesday that procedures and practices employed by the US government make it impossible for them to do their jobs. In a letter [text, PDF] directed to the attention of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, the attorneys cited the problems they face in carrying out their duties as a result of the government’s detention policy and conditions. Specifically, they allege that those working with the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) [official website] seize, open, interpret, read and review attorney-client privileged communications, actions which the attorneys argue, are unlawful. As a result of this practice by the JTF-GTMO, the attorneys find themselves in “an untenable position of having either to violate professional ethical standards in order to communicate with our clients, or cease communicating with our clients,” and accordingly request that this practice be stopped immediately. Additionally, the attorneys, who represent six “high value detainees” [AP report], address the refusal up to this point of the government to respond to their complaints or requests in spite of sending “multiple communications.”
While attorneys representing detainees may face challenges in carrying out their duties, prosecutions of those detainees continue. In October, Retired Vice Admiral Bruce MacDonald [official profile] notified both prosecution and defense lawyers in the trial of five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay that he will be accepting recommendations [JURIST report] until early 2012 on whether the trial should move forward as a death penalty case. MacDonald, who was appointed to oversee the military commissions at Guantanamo in 2010, alerted lawyers in the case that they will have until January 15, 2012, to make their recommendations, ensuring that the case will not go to trial at the naval base until sometime next year [Miami Herald report]. The five detainees have been held at Guantanamo since 2006 when they were transferred there from the custody of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. The government alleges the men were organizers of the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] terrorist attacks, financing and training the men who hijacked the aircrafts used in the attack. MacDonald’s communication to counsel also indicates that he will be accepting recommendations in order to determine whether to try the defendants together or separately.