Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guantanamo - What Would John Adams Say?

Sometimes it feels like people who are concerned about Guantanamo are a handful of voices in the wilderness. Then there are moments when a lot of people get pulled into the conversation. "Law Day" -- sponsored nationwide by the American Bar Association (ABA) and implemented by state bar associations in each state -- is an example of the latter.

The Boston Massacre
Engraving by Paul Revere
John Adams set a precedent by assuring due
process for a British soldier accused in the massacre.

The theme of this year's Law Day observance is "The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo." The event encourages educators at all levels -- through contests, special events, and detailed teaching aids -- to get students to learn and think about the legacy of due process and legal protections in the United States, and to ask hard questions about how that legacy is (or is not) being honored today, particularly with respect to the "war on terror" and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and other locations.

I'm particularly excited about the event that will be hosted by the Nevada courts - a web-streamed screening of the film about the Guantanamo combatant status review tribunals (CSRTs) -- "The Response" -- followed by a web-linked discussion in locations across the state, led by the film's producer, Sig Libowitz. The screening starts at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday, May 5, 2011, and can be viewed from a link on the Nevada Law Day page.

Below is a sampling of some of the ways young people are grappling with the issue in other parts of the country as a part of Law Day.

In New Jersey students have made short videos to explore the Law Day theme. Entries can be viewed on Youtube -- one of my favorites is entry #27, "A Question of Justice and Due Process." (I especially like the "man in the street" interviews with other students about the detainees at Guantanamo.) Entry #29 touches briefly on Rasul v Bush . . .

In Pennsylvania extensive resources were provided for Law Day sessions in schools, and award winners were posted on the Law Day website.

There were also significant observances in Connecticut, Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Many of us are slowly coming to the realization that the erosion of legal rights that has happened during our watch in the last decade is not going to be erased quickly or easily. It will take hard work for a long time, and it can't be done alone. It may take a generation. What is your community doing to enlist young people in this challenge?

Related posts

The story of the past decade-plus has been the story of the assertion by some that the conception of law that our society has is not sufficient.  Simply put, there are those who say that there is a third, "in-between" category of behavior -- and legal status -- that is not civilian (subject to criminal law) and not military (subject to military law and the laws of war). And since there are no rules about how to deal with that third category . . . .

(See Using the Good, Old Criminal Justice System: Worth a Try?)

I believe Easter is God's gift to humanity of victory over death, hopelessness and frailty, and I believe that God is alive and in our midst. The witness of the Guantanamo lawyers has confirmed me in those beliefs.

(See Easter Victory: The Guantanamo Lawyers )

Eric Holder addressed a group of Northwestern Law students and others. Afterward one audience member summed up the speech as he left: "He pretty much said he can kill anyone he wants." The details of that speech will turn you more topsy-turvy than anything Alice experienced when she ventured through the looking glass.

(See Eric Through the Looking Glass)

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