Today a judge sentenced Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to life in prison after Ghailani was convicted in November in relation to bombings in 1998. His case has been called a test for the Obama administration’s ability to try detainees in civil court. Some say they failed the test because Ghailani was convicted on only one of the 285 charges brought against him.
However, if he had been found guilty of all of the charges, and received life sentences for each one, the end result would be the same. He would still be going to prison for the rest of his life. Yes, I agree it is disheartening that more of the charges didn’t stick, but that blame lies with the prosecutors. If they don’t have better evidence to back up their charges, why are more than 170 people being held at Guantanamo at all? Why are we so convinced these people are guilty?
I don’t deny that terrorists are dangerous people whose handling requires special care, although I highly doubt that all of the people held at Guantanamo qualify as terrorists. I do deny that anyone is too much of a threat to even set foot on U.S. soil for a fair trial. Our presidents’ approaches to Guantanamo and the people held there are some of the most disappointing failures of the past 10 years. We can’t expect other countries to listen to us when we call for fair treatment and trials for prisoners when we can’t follow the same instructions ourselves.