The Collegian
Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Scholars debate Constitutionality of Gitmo

Two legal scholars who practiced in Guantanamo Bay, one as a detainee advocate and another as a prosecutor, confronted each other and presented their contrasting views at the 2009 Allen Chair Symposium, held by the T.C. Williams School of Law on Thursday.

During this event -- titled "Detaining Suspected Terrorists: Past, Present, and Future" -- six legal scholars from around the country discussed the legal issues of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

For the fourth discussion topic of the day, Kyndra Rotunda from the Chapman University School of Law, who served as a prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, and Kristine Huskey from the University of Texas School of Law, who represented detainees at Guantanamo in court, faced each other and expressed their opposing views on the topic.

"Even today, the press and media continue to air footage of the original holding cells of Guantanamo Bay," Rotunda said. "Those haven't been used for years. In fact, we only used it for the first three months."

Rotunda said the detainees were protected by the Geneva Conventions and gave examples of the privileges the detainees have, including English classes, volleyball courts and religious activities. She added that there was an instance where the military tried to provide detainees with a goat to sacrifice for a religious feast, although they decided not to because of the expected negative reactions from PETA.

Huskey disagreed with Rotunda and said the detainees were not provided with what they needed. As an example, she said the detainees were only allowed to call their families or parents twice a year, and said the isolation from the outside world was affecting their mental health.

Rotunda still felt as if privileges afforded to detainees might not be ideal.

"I think it is a right thing to do to accommodate them," Rotunda said, "but in some way I think we have gone too far to the point that it risks the soldier's safety."

Rotunda gave an example in which the military built a mosque inside Camp Bucca in Iraq for detainees to use for religious activities, but ended up being used as a secret weapon factory for the detainees to rebel against the guards.

Tung Yin from Iowa College of Law gave a similar example in his speech about the detainees using lawyers to communicate with their associates outside the camp.

In contrast, Huskey said the United States was taking advantage of the fact that Guantanamo is a "legal black hole," and that although there is no solid evidence, many people have reported the tortures and inhumane practices in Guantanamo.

Stephen I. Vladeck from American University Washington College of Law and Benjamin Priester from the Florida Coastal School of Law discussed the legal issues of picking detainees in Guantanamo. Priester said there was no Congressional legislation that would control the issues in Guantanamo, and as a result, courts were making up rules. Vladeck said he had zero faith in Congress' ability to choose the right policy for Guantanamo.

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During the question-and-answer portion of the event, one of the audience members said to the speakers.

"A lot of you all in your ivory towers, you forget. When you get it wrong, my guys die."

Rotunda responded to this comment by saying the enemies of U.S. soldiers did not follow P.O.W. rights.

Contact staff writer Masato Tsuruta at masato.tsuruta@richmond.edu

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