Guantanamo chief defense counsel refuses to allow review of attorney letters

[JURIST] Chief Defense Counsel for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] war crimes tribunals, Colonel J.P. Colwell on Sunday ordered [e-mail, PDF] attorneys under his command not to comply with rules [text, PDF] requiring military officials to review all legal correspondence between lawyers and the detainees accused of involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks [JURIST backgrounder]. The rules were issued [JURIST report] in December by Navy rear Adm. David Woods [official profile], commander of the prison facility. Colwell's e-mail informed all military commission defense lawyers that they are ethically obligated to refuse to follow the rules: "These orders compel you to unlawfully reveal information related to the representation of a client in violation of Rule for Professional Conduct 1.6(a)" [text] which addresses the confidentiality in a client-attorney relationship. He went on to advise all attorneys not to submit their acknowledgement of the rules, and if they had already done so, to withdraw that acknowledgement immediately. The new rules would require all correspondence to the five detainees to undergo a security review by officials from law enforcement and the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website]. The detainees, whose arraignment is anticipated to occur in 2012, include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive].

Lawyers for detainees at Guantanamo have previously raised concerns with practices used at the prison. Last November, lawyers complained specifically about the infringement on attorney-client privilege [JURIST report] in a letter directed to the attention of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs. The attorneys alleged that those working with the Joint Task Force Guantanamo [JTF-GTMO) seize, open, interpret, read and review attorney-client privileged communications, actions which the attorneys argued are unlawful. The five detainees have been held at Guantanamo since 2006 when they were transferred there from the custody of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Last April, Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the trials [JURIST report] for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other detainees are set to be held before a military commission. This was a change from Holder's previous position to conduct the trials in federal civilian court [JURIST report]. Wednesday marked the tenth anniversary of operation at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report].

 

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