Pro bono Guantanamo detainee efforts

by Walter Olson on July 29, 2008

Apparently not quite so pro bono as all that, reports the Washington Times: a Kuwait-based group backed by the government of that wealthy Arab state has kicked in nearly $4 million to the legal effort. Firms receiving Kuwaiti funds include Shearman & Sterling, Arnold & Porter and Pillsbury Winthrop. “The Kuwait-based group also has financed a public relations campaign run by Levick Strategic Communications in Washington” toward the goal of “due process for the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay”. (Jim McElhatton, “Kuwait helps pay detainees’ legal bills”, Jul. 25)(via Elefant).

{ 5 comments }

1 billb 07.29.08 at 12:14 pm

Not being a lawyer, I don’t know what the culture is on this, but I don’t see how pro bono work has to be a sacrifice for the lawyer. Clearly there’s an implication that pro bono work is free to the client, but isn’t it still “for the good” of the client when a third-party pays for the lawyer’s time? I.e., why does the charitable aspect have to come from the lawyer to qualify the work as pro bono?

I’m not trying to be snarky here, by the way. If other lawyers hear “pro bono” and think that this means that nobody got paid for the representation of Gitmo detainees, then I’m sure your criticism is fine. As a non-lawyer, and a bit of a cynic, I’ve always assumed in these high-profile cases that the pro bono lawyer was being at least partially paid by somebody who was interested in the outcome. And as long as the client is being represented for free, who cares about the funding?

2 Bill Poser 07.29.08 at 1:34 pm

Another factor to consider is that defending Guantanamo detainees is incredibly expensive and time-consuming. Meeting with one’s client requires a trip to Guantanamo, which is not easy to get to. You can’t stay there for any length of time, and you can’t have confidential or efficient communication by telephone or other distant means. Investigation is expensive, slow, or just impossible, and the opposition has at its disposal the resources of the US military and intelligence organizations, not exactly a level playing field.

3 Steve 07.29.08 at 2:16 pm

Admittedly, I’m not entirely informed on the treatment of the detainees/prisoners/terrorists/etc. at Guantanamo. But, Im don’t believe that they have the same rights as US citizens. They should be treated as humanely as possible.

Some of those released prisoners actually were involved in suicide bombings. Many would say that they were pushed there by their captivity. Isn’t that a sad thing to say?

That they were totally loving individuals who “suddenly” decided that they wanted to be remembered as a suicide bomber?

I reject that idea completely. Either these people were already there because of their religious sect’s beliefs(a scary concept) or there is some acceptance of this type of behavior in general(an even scarier one.)

Either way, I believe that this is a decision for the military and we, the people of the US, should just require humane treatment.

It’s a tough one.

4 William Nuesslein 07.30.08 at 8:49 am

What bothers me most about Guantanamo is that anyone in the world can be sent there through a “your it” declaration of enemy combatant. That is a tyrannical power. The American public willingly accepts these designations as true in all cases. Further they say that human rights do not apply to the purported terrorists. This is not the country that I love.

We should praise Kuwait for helping us in living up to our ideals. We know for sure that many of the enemy combatants were innocents turned in for a bounty.

5 Deoxy 07.31.08 at 11:06 am

What bothers me most about Guantanamo is that anyone in the world can be sent there through a “your it” declaration of enemy combatant.

Well, anyone who happens to be in Afghanistan. That’s not really a very big portion of “anyone in the world”. When we are done in Afghanistant, well, that’s it.

Further they say that human rights do not apply to the purported terrorists.

Almost no one has said that. They have said that the rights of AMERICAN CITIZENS do not apply to them, which is absolutely correct.

What’s so sillt about this, is that these men could, almost without exception, have simply been executed in the field as spies, according to… the Geneva conventions that everyone always talks about. Fighting without a uniform or otherwise obvious method of deisgnating yourself an organized combatant (especially when not defending your home, as there is some leeway given for that) is punishable by summary execution. That has been the normal standard for literally generations.

It’s certainly a far cry from perfect… but the known alternatives aren’t really any better.

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