This post first appeared on Think Progress.
In the first full war crimes tribunal
of the Obama administration, a military judge held that a detainee who confessed to killing an American soldier after he was threatened with being gang-raped to death if he did not cooperate may nonetheless have that confession used against him at trial
In May hearings, a man identified as Interrogator 1 said in testimony that he threatened Mr. Khadr with being gang-raped to death if he did not co-operate. That interrogator was later identified as former U.S. Army Sergeant Joshua Claus. He has also been convicted of abusing a different detainee and has left the military.
Mr. Khadr’s military-appointed lawyer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jon Jackson, argued this instance, as well as other alleged instances of torture and coercion, are enough to render any future confessions – even those in so-called “clean” interrogations – inadmissible in court.
“The well was poisoned: The government can’t cleanse the well by saying, ‘Well, someone else came in and was nice to him,’ ” Col. Jackson said.
Not so, the prosecution countered: All the confessions and testimony it plans to bring forward were freely offered by Mr. Khadr to people who treated him well. [...]
Military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish sided with the prosecution
Khadr was only 15 years old at the time of his capture and confession, earning his tribunal a strong condemnation from the United Nations. In the words of the UN
, “Juvenile justice standards are clear. Children should not be tried before military tribunals.”
The military judge’s decision to admit a coerced confession raises even more troubling questions about whether this particular tribunal will reach accurate results. As the Supreme Court recognized almost 75 years ago, confessions extracted by “brutality and violence” are akin to “deliberate deception
” of the court because they reveal little about a suspect’s guilt or innocence and everything about their very human desire to avoid or end torture. This principle obviously applies to Khadr. A prisoner who is convinced that they will be raped and murdered if they do not confess has nothing to lose — and what remains of their personal dignity to gain — by doing so.
A member of Khadr’s legal team called the judge’s decision a “disgrace
,” and that lawyer is right. Coerced confessions are not simply inhumane — and not simply un-American — they produce wholly unreliable evidence
. Mr. Khadr may actually be guilty, but a confession extracted by a rape threat does nothing to prove this point.