|Bush fights no confidence vote|
suspects could be jailed for life and even executed on the basis of
hearsay or coerced testimony under new rules put forward by the US.
The Pentagon has drawn up a draft manual ahead of trials at Guantanamo Bay, which are expected to begin soon.
The proposals will grant judges wide freedom in deciding what evidence to hear, including statements obtained under duress.
Human rights groups say the regulations would allow evidence that would not be tolerated in civilian or military courtrooms.
“No civilized nation permits convictions to rest
on coerced evidence, and reliance on such evidence has never been
acceptable in military or civilian courts in this country,” said Elisa
Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First.
Democrats controlling Congress vowed to hold urgent hearings into the proposals.
Dan Dell’Orto, deputy to the US Defence
Department’s top counsel, defended the new rules, saying the they will
“afford all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as
indispensable by civilized people.”
He said the fact hearsay would be admissible for both prosecution and defence would “level the playing field.”
The draft comes after legislation last December cleared the way for the start of “enemy combatant” trials at Guantanamo.
Officials are planning trials for an initial 10 detainees, and believe they have enough evidence to eventually charge up to 80.
More than 400 people are being held at the
military camp in Cuba, with around the same number so far released
since it opened five years ago.
As well as allowing judges to accept hearsay –
a witness quoting someone else – the draft proposals could also forbid
a detainee’s lawyer revealing classified evidence in defence until the
government has a chance to review it.
Also, suspects would be allowed to view summaries of classified evidence, not the material itself.
The manual allows the death penalty for people
convicted of spying or taking part in a “conspiracy or joint
enterprise” that results in someone’s death.
The maximum penalty for aiding the enemy — such as providing ammunition or money — is lifetime imprisonment.