Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't Like Gitmo, Torture, Child Soldiers as US Legacy? Here's Something You Can DO...

Mohammad Jawad was a child soldier in Afghanistan when he was detained by US forces there in the so-called War on Terror and taken to Guantanamo where he was subjected to various types of torture - recognized as torture, that is, except to the Bush Administration, who call it anything else.
You can sign this petition to help in his behalf here. Read more about him and the petition (at bottom) below:
He was featured last May in Salon:
The U.S. government claims that Mohammed Jawad is an unlawful enemy combatant who tried to murder two U.S. soldiers and their translator in Afghanistan by tossing a grenade into their vehicle in December 2002.

But Maj. David Frakt, his military-appointed attorney, argues that Jawad -- who was a teenager of 16 or 17 at the time of his alleged offense (Jawad doesn't know his birth date) -- is a victim. He says Jawad was a homeless teenager who was drugged and forced to fight with Afghan militia, then abused by the United States, which transported him halfway around the world and imprisoned him at Guantánamo for five years without charge and is now using him as a guinea pig to test a new system of military justice with no regard to his initial status as a juvenile.

When Frakt arrived at Guantánamo to meet Jawad, he said he found a profoundly disturbed young man who was reluctant to talk. "Jawad is in an extremely fragile mental state," Frakt said in an interview following the hearing. "He has been here for so long -- he has essentially grown up in Guantánamo. He has lost track of time, lost touch with reality, and suffers from severe depression. And he doesn't believe he can get justice from the military commissions."

The fact that he was a child soldier was deliberately ignored by the Bush Administration. The US bandies the words "freedom" and "justice" around as if they were purely propaganda tools. Care about freedom? So what about exposing a minor, whose transition to adulthood occurred in the worst of all possible conditions, to torture and human rights abuse? Is this the way the US fights for democracy and freedom?

The United States has acknowledged holding eight teenagers at Guantánamo, but although some of them were given special housing and educational opportunities and were eventually released, the U.S. has ignored Jawad's status as a juvenile.

But Donald Rumsfeld, talking the Cheney line, lied about this:
At a press conference in April 2003, when the “child prisoners” story first broke, Donald Rumsfeld pointedly described the juvenile detainees as “not children,” and General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that they “may be juveniles, but they’re not on the Little League team anywhere. They’re on a major league team, and it’s a terrorist team, and they’re in Guantánamo for a very good reason –- for our safety, for your safety.”

Safety? When we're becoming a human rights-abusing, rogue nation? It's worth taking a brief look at Jawad's life story, which has been largely ignored:

Jawad is an illiterate Afghan from a poor Pashtun family with no ties to the Afghan government. According to Frakt, Jawad's father died during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. His mother remarried, and the family fled to Pakistan. Jawad spent his childhood years in a refugee camp and was educated at a local madrassa where all the teaching is conducted orally. He never learned to read or write.

Frakt says that when Jawad was 13, his family kicked him out and told him he needed to find a job. He spent much of those years hanging around a mosque looking for work. Sometime in 2002, Jawad was told he could have a job helping eradicate land mines in Afghanistan, so he returned to his native country. Once he arrived, however, Frakt says he was recruited by the local militia, drugged and forced into combat. Soon after, he was arrested by the Afghan police and handed over to the Americans.
Unlike most of the detainees at Guantánamo, Jawad was never provided a "habeas counsel," that is, a civilian lawyer to file a petition of habeas corpus on his behalf. Until he was charged this year, he was virtually unknown to the world.

Frakt said that his meetings with Jawad have been difficult, in part because Jawad doesn't understand the legal process, and in part because Jawad doesn't trust anyone in a U.S. military uniform, which Frakt is obligated to wear when he visits his client. "It is difficult to establish a trusting relationship with a detainee who has suffered so much and been detained by the U.S. military for five years," Frakt said. "He has a natural distrust of me, and he is not sure that I am here to help him."
From the government's point of view, Jawad's is a seemingly straightforward case. The prosecution has located eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the Afghan teenager throw the grenade. In addition, it says it has a signed confession from Jawad.

But Frakt says the case isn't nearly as straightforward as the government alleges. He says that the prosecution chose to prosecute Jawad because it viewed his as a "sexy" case -- Jawad is a defendant with "blood on his hands," in the government's view, which is something the American public understands better than something more abstract, like charges of material support for terrorism.

In other words, this is a show prosecution, politically motivated. Its purpose is not the administration of justice - not at all! - but a tool to be used to convince the American public that Bush's policies are justified, that we are bringing "terrorists" to "justice" and hence "securing America". While in fact, what we are doing is the diametrical opposite: undermining the very fabric of our justice system, democracy, and the rule of law, especially as it is applied internationally.

While Frakt acknowledges that the prosecution has witnesses who saw his client throw the grenade, he says the defense has also located witnesses who say the teenager appeared to be drugged at the time. As for the confession, Frakt says it is in Farsi -- a language Jawad does not speak. And the "signature" on it is in the form of a thumbprint, because Jawad does not read or write.

Frakt hopes to be able to make these arguments on Jawad's behalf if or when the case goes to trial. In the meantime, Frakt says has serious reservations about Jawad's ability to aid in his defense because of his fragile mental state -- something that was evident when Jawad himself addressed the court this month.

When the judge asked Jawad if he would like to make a statement, the young man spoke for about 20 minutes, saying that he didn't understand why he was at Guantánamo and why he was being punished. As he described his ordeal -- of being flown from Afghanistan to Guantánamo, locked in a steel cage, moved from cell to cell in the middle of the night, and sometimes being kept in a cell that had bright lights on 24 hours a day -- he said he had lost track of time and couldn't remember when or for how long he was held in each camp. Sometimes he stopped to rub his head and seemed to forget what he was saying in mid-sentence.

When Jawad finished his statement, Frakt requested that his client be taken out of the maximum security facility where he is currently housed -- where he is confined to a windowless cell at least 22 hours a day -- and moved to a "quiet, restful place where he can rehabilitate." He also requested that Jawad be examined by a mental health professional.

The judge told Frakt to put the request in writing and said that he would consider it. But it remains unclear whether the judge at the military commissions has the authority to order military officials at the detention facility at Guantánamo to do anything.

Now, finally, there is something we can do about it.

has put up this letter and petition to sign as well as this article explaining what the petition is about and what it can accomplish:

Last week I publicized the extraordinary appeal campaign for Guantanamo detainee Mohammad Jawad initiated by his military attorneys. Jawad, who was arrested as a teenager in Afghanistan in December 2002, is the first child soldier to be tried as a "war criminal" in modern times. In U.S. custody, he has suffered beatings, threats, physical isolation, sleep deprivation, been subjected to 24-hour bright lights, and more. His attorneys have called for letters to be written to the Convening Authority at Guanatanamo, asking them to withdraw and dismiss the charges against Jawad.

Now, his attorneys have initiated an online petition campaign in his behalf. You can follow this link to go straight to the petition. Please sign it and pass the info on to whomever you can.

Please click the link above and sign the petition. It's a small thing we can do to try and unbuild the system of atrocities Bush/Cheney have put in place. It's a way we can try to save the life of a forgotten victim of that system, a system that puts America to shame.

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