Overly Law-Minded Judge at Gitmo Is Fired

The chief judge in charge of Guantanamo ‘war crimes trials’ has summarily fired one of the trial judges, Army Col. Peter Brownback III, after Brownback refused to set a trial date in the case of a Canadian detainee because the prosecution was refusing to provide the detainee’s defense counsel with his medical and interrogation records. The LAT article about the dismissal suggests that it was motivated in part by the government’s strong desire to fast-track the show trials for political reasons:

Brownback said during an April hearing that he had been “badgered and beaten and bruised by Maj. Groharing” to set a date but couldn’t do so in good conscience when the prosecution was withholding evidence.

Brownback revealed in a November 2007 session that Pentagon officials had made clear they “didn’t like” his decision the previous June to dismiss the Khadr case for lack of jurisdiction.

That ruling was overturned a few weeks later by a hastily assembled Court of Military Commission Review.

Asked about Brownback’s removal, Air Force Capt. Andre Kok, a tribunal spokesman, said it was “a mutual decision between Col. Brownback and the Army that he revert to his retired status when his current active-duty orders expire in June.”

Human rights monitors saw Brownback’s dismissal as indicative of political influence on the tribunal.

“The fact that Judge Brownback has now been taken off the case, without explanation, creates the appearance of political meddling and highlights why these commissions cannot be considered full, fair and independent,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counter-terrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch.

“The message of the Pentagon’s decision seems to be that it is unwilling to let judges exercise independence if it means a ruling against the government,” said Jamil Dakwar, human rights program director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Independence, like democracy, is highly overrated. Much too unpredictable.

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