I Need Your Help: My Letter to Guantanamo’s Convening Authority

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The following letter has been faxed to the defense counsel of Mohammad Jawad, currently due to stand trial as part of the military tribunal process at Guantanamo. A juvenile when arrested in Afghanistan, Jawad’s likely innocence, and his abuse at the hands of both Afghan and U.S. captors has been well documented. His attorney, Major David Frakt, is asking interested individuals and organizations to write similar letters on his client’s behalf.

There is also a petition covering the primary details of the case, and asking for withdrawal and dismissal of charges against the former teenage combatant. I urgently ask my readers to at least consider signing the petition. A great wrong can be undone, if you help and take action.

The text of my letter:

September 7, 2008

The Honorable Susan J. Crawford

Convening Authority

Office of Military Commissions

1600 Defense Pentagon

Washington DC 20301-1600

Dear Madam Convening Authority,

I am writing in regards to the case of Mohammad Jawad. It is my understanding that you are currently considering a defense request for withdrawal and dismissal of charges on Mr. Jawad. I strongly support the defense motion.

This case has particular interest for me, as in my professional role as a licensed psychologist, I have worked with victims of torture from multiple countries around the world, both as a psychotherapist, and in a forensic role. I have been certified as an expert witness in the immigration court of the Department of Homeland Security.

According to multiple sources I have perused, Mr. Jawad has suffered from coercive interrogation and abusive conditions of incarceration, including during such time as he was a minor. I am not accusing the authorities of deliberately abusing Mr. Jawad at this time, but I am concerned about his mental condition. I believe he is held in solitary confinement in a windowless cell, subjected to 24-hour lighting and constant observation.

The following is my understanding of the treatment Mr. Jawad endured since his capture as a child soldier in Afghanistan in December 2002:

According to a recently released report by Amnesty International, USA: From ill-treatment to unfair trial. The case of Mohammed Jawad, child ‘enemy combatant’, Afghan police coerced a confession out of the 16 or 17-year-old prisoner. He was transferred to U.S. custody at Baghram Airbase, where he put his thumbprint to a confession written in a language (Pashto) he could neither speak nor write.  Jawad then, as a teenager, was “subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation, cruel use of restraints, hooding, forced standing, stress positions, and physical assaults as part of the interrogation process.” Transferred to Guantanamo Naval Air Base, he was placed in isolation and repeatedly interrogated, all without recourse to legal counsel.

As a psychologist myself, I was horrified to read that young Jawad endured multiple episodes of 30-day isolation upon the “recommendation of a psychologist with Guantánamo’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) who suggested that he was feigning homesickness and depression as a technique to resist interrogations.” Even after Mr. Jawad reportedly made a suicide attempt in December 2003, he was subjected to Guantanamo’s “frequent flyer” program, which, according to a Washington Post article I read last month, consisted of moving Jawad and other prisoners “repeatedly from cell to cell to cause sleep deprivation and disorientation as punishment and to soften detainees for subsequent interrogation.”

While I am not an attorney, Madam Convening Authority, there are elements of the law under which Mr. Jawad is held that seem to advocate for a withdrawal of charges against him. I have heard that the Acting Chief Prosecutor responsible for swearing and forwarding the charges against Mohammad Jawad has testified he was unaware of any abuse of Mr. Jawad at the time charges were initially sworn, and has said since that, as a matter of personal ethics, he would not swear charges against someone he believed to have been tortured.

Then, there is the matter of Mr. Jawad’s status as a child at the time the alleged crimes took place. (I say “alleged,” since recent events call into question whether Mohammad’s very culpability. Additionally, the charges were only filed against him five years after his incarceration.) Under international law, child soldiers are considered primarily to be victims of war, not war criminals (even unto age 18). The United Nations Committe on the Rights of the Child has emphasized that the right to be promptly charged and brought to trial within a reasonable time is something that should be especially emphasized in the case of a child. Mr. Jawad’s rights have been violated as function of U.S. detention policy.

Nor is there any reason to believe Mr. Jawad is a “war criminal” (the primary purpose of the Military Tribunals being to prosecute “war crimes”). As the Amnesty report cited above makes clear, throwing a grenade is like any other attempt to kill a soldier in an armed conflict. It is not a crime of war unless the attempt to murder is “hors de combat,” that is, against someone “not engaged in military action as a result of illness, injury, capture or surrender, or unless the method used to carry out the attempted killing violates the law of war.” While I am no soldier, I believe use of a grenade, by whatever side of an armed conflict, against an armed opponent, is not a war crime.

Finally, I respectfully ask that you consider the following points:

·         Mohammad Jawad is the only person charged under the Military Commissions Act (MCA) who has not been charged with terrorism, nor material support for terrorism, or even with conspiracy.

·         Unique among those charged under the MCA, Mohammad Jawad is the only person is not even alleged to have any affiliation with al Qaida or the Taliban

·         No one died in the attack allegedly perpetrated by Mohammad Jawad.

It is difficult for me to understand what purpose the prosecution of this young man currently serves. I believe the defense motion to withdraw and dismiss charges against Mohammad Jawad has legal merit, and certainly makes sense from a humanitarian point of view. I further hope that the Convening Authority will respond fairly and reasonably in the matter of any new evidence that comes to light which casts doubt on earlier decisions.

I thank you for your attention in this matter, and am confident that when you review all of the matters in extenuation and mitigation of Mr. Jawad’s case, you will rule in favor of withdrawal and dismissal of charges.

Sincerely yours,

J—- K—–, Ph.D.

San Francisco, CA

September 7, 2008

Please, don’t wait. GO SIGN THE PETITION NOW. And please note, if you are moved to write your own letter, please do not send it directly to Susan Crawford at the address I’ve noted in the letter. Instead, letters are to be sent to:

Major David Frakt

Office of Military Commissions – Defense

1099 14th St. NW. Ste 2000D

Washington DC 20005

Major Frakt will be delivering all materials, including letters and petition signatures directly to the Convening Authority after Friday, September 12 (the deadline). Letters can be faxed to (202)761-0510 (Attn: Major Frakt).

Also posted at Invictus

9 comments

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    • Valtin on September 8, 2008 at 3:55 am
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    So I’m running it by one more time, for those who haven’t seen it, or acted yet. Also, to encourage others to spread the issue to friends, and across the net. The petition has only 229 signatures thus far. I can’t understand why there haven’t been more. It is testimony to the ignominy and stigma that attaches to being a prisoner.

    And I thought when I was a teen I had no friends around! How little I knew how bad it could get.

    • Edger on September 8, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Thanks for doing this, Valtin.

  1. I wish this received a bigger response at Great Orange Saturnalia.  Thanks for keeping this alive.

  2. I have been there and commented:

    “I am further shocked and dismayed by learning of yet, another “child” who has suffered incarceration, with no relief in sight, for his alleged role in the conflict of Afghanistan!  There is no proof, there never has been any proof, yet, this young lad has suffered, in his detention in Guantanemo, for over five years now.  As a citizen of the “world” and one of the United States, I demand that you give fair consideration to this young lad — release him and help him to become a “whole” human being again, if at all possible.”

    Thank you, Valtin, for “staying” on top of these sad, yet, usually, neglected issues of those still remaining in captivity, at our behest, in Guantanemo.  I only wish that I had the means to be an even MORE forceful individual in our current circumstances.

  3. …that “Convening Authority” is a role, such as “Commanding Officer”, and not a title.  This letter from the ACLU to Ms. Crawford addresses itself to her as “Ms. Crawford” and at no point is “Convening Authority” used as an honorific.

    Just a style note.

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