One-Way Accountability

July 18, 2012

One-Way Accountability

At a press conference at Guantánamo after the plea hearing, the current Chief Prosecutor for the military commissions, Brigadier General Mark Martins, said that “Mr Khan has, importantly and commendably, accepted responsibility and expressed remorse for his actions.” General Martins noted that “no-one has alleged that he was a mastermind or a leader” and noted that Majid Khan had been convicted “on a rationale of indirect liability” whereby “you can be guilty of a substantive offence that you didn’t directly do but that was a natural and foreseeable consequences of an agreement that came into play and that you never withdrew from”. The facts taken together with Majid Khan’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions, the Chief Prosecutor asserted, rendered the plea arrangement “a very credible result that fits, that is justice, and that is an appropriate holding of accountability”.

At the press conference, Majid Khan’s lawyer explained that Khan had sought to plead guilty “quite a long time ago”, a matter of some years earlier, and that it had “taken a long time for us to get to today”. The lawyer recalled that defence counsel’s attempts to move the case forward had originally been met by “a tremendous bureaucratic paralysis” and “perhaps even intransigence” on the part of the authorities. Until the current Chief Prosecutor arrived in post in September 2011, the lawyer continued, “we couldn’t find anyone who would talk to us in the United States government”, He suggested that this state of affairs had flowed from a situation where President Barack Obama had essentially “surrendered” matters surrounding the Guantánamo detentions to “his political opponents.”

Majid Khan’s guilty plea was entered nine years after he was taken into custody in Pakistan in the first week of March 2003, secretly handed over to the USA and held at undisclosed locations. Prior to being transferred to military custody at Guantánamo on 4 September 2006, he was subjected to more than three years of enforced disappearance in the secret detention program then being operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the authorization of President George W. Bush. Majid Khan has also alleged that he was subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment while held in secret custody. The details of where he was held during this time, how he was interrogated and by whom, and his conditions of confinement, remain classified at the highest levels of secrecy.

At the press conference on 29 February 2012 at Guantánamo, Majid Khan’s lawyer reiterated that Majid Khan “was tortured and he was tortured very badly” in US custody prior to his arrival at Guantánamo. That is the limit of the detail he could or can disclose publicly on this issue. The lawyer emphasised that Majid Khan’s treatment in secret custody had been “unlawful, and the United States government needs to – it must – acknowledge what happened to him and it must accept responsibility for what happened to him”. He suggested that “the principle of transparency can’t flow in only one direction…. There has to be disclosure of what happened to people like Majid Khan.”