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Morris Davis, fighting for justice in Guantanamo

Latest update : 2008-03-14

Former Guantanamo military court chief prosecutor Morris Davis has been challenging the Bush administration's management of the detention centre. How did he come to perform such a U-turn?

Colonel Morris D. Davis had the perfect pedigree to serve the Bush administration. A lawyer and military officer, he started his career in 1983 as lieutenant on a US Air Force base. He then moved on to become a military prosecutor.

Yet last October, he loudly quit his job as chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay US detention centre, bringing the institution he had always supported into disrepute. In an interview, he told the Washington Post about his serious doubts over whether audiences for Guantanamo special cases were “complete, fair, and open.”

The colonel changes sides

This was the first slap in the face for the Bush administration, already under fire for its treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo. The second blow arrived on February 22nd, when Davis accepted the testimony of six of its detainees, among them Salim Hamdan, ex-chauffeur of Osama Bin Laden. Explained Davis, "I have no sympathy for Mr. Hamdan.  But I think he has the right to a fair and free trial."

 

In June 2007, just months before his resignation, he published a piece in the New York Times entitled "The Guantanamo I know." He defends Guantanamo, depicting the detention centre as an exemplar of respecting human rights. "The detainees are housed in new cells, modeled after civilian prisons in Indiana and Michigan. They get three meals a day, in the cuisine of their own country.  Each has a copy of the Koran; the guards respect the five daily prayers."

 

The colonel's resignation came just after William Haynes was nominated to the post of head of legal affairs for the Pentagon.  Two years earlier, Haynes had used waterboarding to get testimony out of prisoners. 

 

"Morris wanted to open that can of worms."

Philippe Gassot, Washington correspondent for FRANCE 24, notes, "At some point, Davis wanted to open that can of worms.  Everyone knows perfectly well that Guantanamo prisoners are being detained in an unorthodox manner, in defiance of the codes of treating POWs. The key question is why a military man at the twilight of his career took the bother of waiting a year before Bush leaves office?  It's just an act of disavowal, to show that something is wrong."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date created : 2008-03-13

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