U.S. can use torture-induced evidence
12/3/2004 10:55:00 AM GMT
The U.S. government said that evidence obtained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in determining whether to detain a foreign suspect indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant.
Information gained by torture have not been admitted in U.S. courts for about 70 years but the U.S. military panels in charge of the detention of 550 foreign suspects as enemy combatants at Guantanamo are permitted to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle said at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday.
Some of the detainees have filed lawsuits to contest their confinement without being charged for at least three years. At the hearing, Boyle demanded District Judge Richard J. Leon to dismiss their cases.
Lawyers for the prisoners said that some were mainly detained on evidence obtained by torture, which they said breached the fundamental justice and U.S. due process standards.
Boyle said in a similar hearing Wednesday that the inmates "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court."
Judge Leon asked whether a detention based only on evidence gained by torture would be illegal, because "torture is illegal. We all know that." Boyle said that if the enemy combatant status review tribunals "determine that evidence of questionable provenance were reliable, nothing in the due process clause (of the Constitution) prohibits them from relying on it."
Judge Leon asked whether there were any limitations on using torture-gained evidence. Boyle replied that the United States would never issue a policy that would ban information gathered by questionable practices like torture by a foreign power.
"About 70 years ago, the Supreme Court stopped the use of evidence produced by third-degree tactics largely on the theory that it was totally unreliable," Harvard Law Professor Philip B. Heymann, a former deputy U.S. attorney general, said.
Subsequent high court rulings were based on revulsion at "the unfairness and brutality of it and later on the idea that confessions ought to be free and uncompelled."
Boyle also said that torture was against U.S. policy and any such practices must be "forwarded through command channels for military discipline." He added that some U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo had been disciplined for misconduct, including a female interrogator who took off her shirt during an interview.
The enemy combatant status review tribunals include three colonels and lieutenant colonels. They were established after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the prisoners could have an opportunity to challenge their detention. The panels have worked on 440 of the detainees so far but only one had been freed.
The military also established an annual administrative review panel which decides whether the prisoner still poses a threat to the U.S. but doesn't review enemy combatant status. Administrative reviews have been completed for 161.
Acknowledging that the prisoners can not have access to lawyers at the combatant status review proceedings and can not know the evidence against them, attorney Wes Powell said "there is no meaningful opportunity in the (proceedings) to rebut the government's claims."