Al-Qaida terrorists will not escape justice even if the infamous Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility in Cuba is closed, says Retired Lt. Col Colby Vokey, a renowned Marine Corps defense lawyer.
President-elect Barack Obama’s promise to shut down the facility simply will ensure that the prisoners still confined at Guantanamo are tried in a manner befitting the American criminal justice system, said Vokey, who became famous for exposing the use of routine torture and physical abuse at the military prison.
Vokey, a supporter of President George W. Bush, blames the cruel character of the island prison on the written policies and directives of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for officially introducing water boarding and other forms of torture into the lexicon of American criminal justice.
“When Rumsfeld was secretary of defense, he set this thing up in the first place," Vokey told Newsmax in his first interview since he retired 11 days ago. "He allowed waterboarding and prolonged stress positions that caused intense pain. It is the same thing inflicted" on Sen. John McCain when he was a prisoner of war.
On Monday, a spokesman for Obama said he remained committed to closing the Guantanamo facility but has not decided how to dispense justice among the suspected terrorists captured after al-Qaida terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Both Senators Obama and McCain voted for closing Guantanamo, which I hugely favored,” Vokey said. “Some of them, Khalid Sheik Mohammad and the others involved in 9/11 for example, certainly need to be tried in federal court or by court-martial.”
The prisoners incarcerated at the remote Cuban facility include the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks in the United States and around the world, according to military authorities. They face trial by military commission, a cumbersome, ill-defined process Vokey strongly condemns.
“By putting them in Guantanamo and trying them that way, we are asking every other country in the world to do the same thing to our people. Can you imagine that happening to our service members? There is an alternative," Vokey said. "It is not true that they will go free if we try them in federal court or in a court-marshal. That is where they should be tried.”
Vokey argues that the most important case for closing Guantanamo is the immeasurable harm it has done to American prestige in countries that view the United States as a model for applying impartial justice regardless of the circumstances.
“We have the best law enforcement people in the world working on these cases. They don’t need evidence obtained from water boarding and torture to make a case against these guys. They have plenty of evidence obtained from other means; means that can be introduced as evidence to prove the cases.” he said.
In the fall of 2006, Vokey was silenced by a gag order from his superior after revealing that an al-Qaida suspect he was detailed to defend was routinely abused by Marine Corps guards. His revelations during a legal proceeding ignited headlines around the world.
Vokey was sent to Guantanamo to defend teenage al-Qaida terrorist suspect Omar Ahmed Khadr, captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. A 15-year-old with joint Pakistani-Canadian citizenship when he was detained, Khadr remains accused of killing an Army Special Forces sergeant with a hand grenade, Vokey said.
In 2007, Vokey made a shambles of the Marine Corps’ criminal case against eight Marines originally charged in 2006 with massacring 24 Iraqi civilians and then covering the incident up in retaliation for losing one of their own in an ambush.
In May, Vokey was ordered into retirement after being refused permission to remain on active duty to defend Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the sole Marine defendant still charged with crimes stemming from the infamous Haditha Massacre incident. Wuterich is still waiting for another military lawyer to be appointed to represent him, Vokey said.
About 255 prisoners still are held at Guantanamo, including 50 the U.S. has cleared for release but cannot repatriate for fear they will be tortured or persecuted in their home states or countries, military authorities say.
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