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Judge Suppresses Coerced Confessions and Refuses to Delay Hearing in Gitmo Case

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle this morning denied the government’s attempt to further delay the hearing of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mohammed Jawad and, as expected, ruled that his coerced confessions will not be admitted in his habeas corpus proceeding. This is the first time that a judge has ordered the suppression of statements in a habeas corpus hearing, according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Jonathan Hafetz, who represents Jawad. It’s also the first time the government has agreed to have the statements suppressed.

As I noted yesterday, though, it’s still not clear whether this reflects a change in policy on the part of the Obama administration — and a break from the Bush administration’s insistence that such statements should be relied upon — or whether it’s simply a strategic move in this one case, where the government seemed likely to lose any argument that the confessions were admissible.

Rejecting the Justice Department’s request to postpone Jawad’s hearing on the merits of his case, Judge Huvelle ruled today:

Petitioner has been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than seven years. Permitting the government to take additional time would be contrary to the Supreme Court’s directive that “the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody.” Boumediene v. Bush, 128 S. Ct. 2229, 2275 (2008) (“The detainees in these cases are entitled to a prompt habeas corpus hearing.”).

The government had asked the court to delay the latest status conference in the case so that it could “consult internally to determine how Respondents will proceed in connection with this habeas action.”

It’s not clear at this point whether the government is considering dropping the case altogether, since its primary evidence appeared to be the coerced confessions it’s now agreed not to use, or whether it will seek to introduce new evidence to support keeping Jawad in prison.

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