Guantanamo death penalty

The AP reported today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 5 other Guantanamo detainees involved to various degrees in 9/11 could be executed on site if found guilty. While Mohammed is most likely guilty of all the charges against him, in all likelihood his confession was acquired under torture. Mohammed’s children, ages 8 and 6 at the time in 2003, were also detained by the CIA and subjected to psychological torture according to witness accounts; their whereabouts and fate today are unknown.

The Bush administration is arguing the Nuremberg trials as a major precedent for the executions but the top Nazis were not subjected to torture, as far as I know, and Nuremberg was an international trial. In this case, we have a group of terrorists judged by a military tribunal of a country they were plotting against; by labeling them ‘enemy combatants’ they are no longer subjected to either civilian or POW laws. This already makes them subjects to the whim of a sovereignty that can be exercised to no restraint, and which can’t be appealed.

Some would say this is arguing in favor of the enemy. Instead, I see it as a way of exposing the groundlessness of the death penalty in a world where 130 countries and the entire European Union have banned it. While I have no sympathy for Mohammed and the others, their execution would be yet another blemish to the way America has conducted itself in the War on Terror, in which it has constantly been striving to operate in a state of exception outside the law.


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