After 16 years in Guantanamo, will Hambali get a fair trial? | Prison News


Medan, Indonesia – Nasir Abbas, a former member of the extremist Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) describes fellow rookie Encep Nurjaman as “typically Javanese”.

Nurjaman, who is better known by his nom de guerre Hambali as well as the pseudonym Riduan Isamuddin, was “polite”, “gentle” and “proper”, Abbas told Al Jazeera, recalling the time when the two men were part of one of the most fearsome groups in Southeast Asia.

Both Hambali and Abbas trained in military combat together in Afghanistan in the 1990s, before joining JI, which was labeled a terrorist organization by the US government after the group claimed responsibility for a series of attacks. across Indonesia in the early 2000s, including the 2002 Bali bombing, which killed more than 200 people.

“He was so eloquent and so intelligent. You couldn’t help but get a good impression of him,” said Abbas, who cooperated with authorities after his arrest and now works on de-radicalization programs for the Indonesian government.

The United States did not feel this.

Hambali, now 57, has spent the past 16 years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and has been described by former US President George W Bush as “one of the world’s deadliest terrorists”.

Afterwards, US President George W Bush hailed Hambal’s capture and called him “one of the world’s deadliest terrorists”. [File: Rick Wilking/Reuters]

Twenty years after the first detainees were sent to Guantanamo, Hambali remains one of 39 men still held there.

Of the 800 people incarcerated in the establishment since its opening, only 12 have been charged with war crimes and have been or will be tried at the establishment’s Justice Camp before a military commission. Hambali, who is charged with murder, terrorism and conspiracy, is one of them.

“The position of the United States government is that individuals who are in Guantanamo generally, but also when charged in military commissions, are a category of what are called unlawful combatants,” Michel said. Paradis, human rights lawyer, specialist in national security law. researcher and lecturer at Columbia Law School in New York.

“Hambali is a combatant in the government’s war on terror and as such can be prosecuted for war crimes.”

In court documents seen by Al Jazeera, these war crimes relate to the 2002 Bali bombings, which targeted people enjoying a night out in the island’s bustling Kuta district, and a 2003 attack on the JW Marriott hotel in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, where 12 people were killed. Hundreds of people were injured in Jakarta and Bali.

Hambali will be tried along with two Malaysians and alleged “accomplices” – Mohammed Nazir bin Lep and Mohammed Farik bin Amin – but some question whether they will be given a fair trial.

“A recurring feature of the war on terrorism has been the invocation of terrorism as an unprecedented and exceptional act. And this, despite being a recurring strategy used by various groups, movements and governments throughout history,” Ian Wilson, senior lecturer in politics and security studies at the Institute, told Al Jazeera. Murdoch University in Australia.

“This ‘exceptional’ nature has been used to rationalize measures that circumvent or nullify existing legal and rights frameworks, including those enshrined in constitutions such as due process rights and the presumption of innocence. This “state of exception” in response to the perceived risk and threat of terrorism has resulted in a significant deterioration of the rule of law and major shifts towards illiberalism in democratic states. “

Wilson says Guantanamo Bay is an example of this approach — a place considered “exceptional sovereignty” by Washington, but also somewhere described as outside formal US legal jurisdiction.


Detainees such as Hambali have not only been denied the legal rights and due process that would have been afforded them by the constitution when tried on American soil, but also the rights in the Geneva Conventions afforded to those who are tried for war crimes.

Hambali, through his lawyers, alleged that he was brutally tortured after his arrest in Thailand in 2003, after which he says he was transferred to a secret detention camp run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and tortured as part of the restitution agency. , Detention and Interrogation Program (RDI) which is sometimes referred to as a “torture program”.

Encep Nurjamen, also known as Hambali, pictured at Guantanamo in a white robe and short graying beardEncep Nurjamen, also known as Hambali, in an undated photo provided by the Federal Office of Public Defenders in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba [File: Federal Public Defender’s Office via AP Photo]

The policy was adopted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, with then-President Bush agreeing that certain torture techniques might be justified if they were able to extract intelligence that would prevent further attacks against the country to occur. Under international law, torture is never justified.

According to Hambali’s lawyer, the Indonesian was stripped naked, deprived of food and sleep and forced to stand in stressful positions – such as kneeling on the ground with his hands above his head – during hours in the program.

He was also allegedly subjected to “walling” – a torture technique where interrogators place a collar around an inmate’s neck and bang their head against a wall.

Other Guantanamo detainees have described being sexually assaulted and overwhelmed while in custody.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has investigated the CIA’s rendition program amid ongoing allegations of torture at Guantanamo and other so-called CIA black sites around the world.

Published in 2014, the report found that the torture techniques used – euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – were not only inhumane, but also ineffective in obtaining intelligence.

The majority of detainees, including Hambali, gave authorities the wrong information simply to stop the torture, according to the report.

“He had provided the false information in an effort to take the pressure off himself… and to report what was [Hambali] assessed questioners wanted to hear,” the report said, citing a CIA cable.

“Worst of Both Worlds”

During his time with al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah, Hambali was most often described as a “man of money”, according to Abbas.

His primary role was to collect and distribute funds from the organization’s many donors, including former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who allegedly sent money for the Bali bombing directly in Hambali.

An Indonesian police officer looks at bouquets of white flowers left on the mutilated sign of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta as prayers were said for those killed in the August 2003 bombingHambali is accused of having participated in the 2003 attacks on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta and the Bali bombings the previous year, which killed more than 200 people. [File: Weda/EPA]

However, in Abbas’ account, Hambali agreed with bin Laden that civilians could be targeted in terrorist attacks, which was highly controversial among other JI operatives, many of whom only considered military targets as fair game.

“We were trained in a military setting in Afghanistan with military knowledge and I was not comfortable attacking civilian targets,” Abbas said.

“I wouldn’t allow it. No one involved in the Bali bombing had the courage to ask me anything. They knew that I would never agree to kill civilians. Those who accepted were wrong and I told them.

Three of the main perpetrators of the Bali bombing were sentenced to death in Indonesia and executed, while a fourth perpetrator, Ali Imron, was sentenced to life after he apologized and expressed remorse.

Imron has always maintained that Hambali had no prior knowledge of the attack.

Twenty years after the bombings – the worst attack in Southeast Asia – Abbas says he believes his former comrade should be sent back to Indonesia for trial.

It’s a view shared by Indonesian human rights lawyer Ranto Sibarani who says the Indonesian government should have tried to negotiate his repatriation.

“No matter how serious the accusations or accusations against Hambali, he remains an Indonesian citizen who deserves protection according to law,” Sibarani told Al Jazeera in August.

“That’s a big question that’s going to hang over the trial,” Paradis said. “Does the United States even have the power to prosecute him? Terrorism is not a war crime.

In 2009, the US Departments of Justice and Defense called the military commissions “fair, effective, and lawful.”

“Military commissions have been used by the United States to try those who have violated the laws of war for more than two centuries,” he said in a press release.

Ali Imronm dressed in white shorts and escorted by two police officers, was found guilty of the Bali bombings by an Indonesian courtIndonesia has prosecuted other suspects for the Bali bombings, sentencing three to death. A fourth, Ali Imron (pictured) was given a life sentence after he apologized and expressed remorse [File: Widhia/EPA]

No date has been set for Hambali’s trial, but many are pessimistic about how the judicial process will unfold once the commission is finally in place.

“Military trials are fatally flawed and the judicial process has been completely undermined by the CIA’s torture program,” Quinton Temby, assistant professor of public policy at Monash University, Indonesia, told Al Jazeera. .

“It’s the worst of both worlds: the detainees will not receive a fair trial and the families of the victims will not see the perpetrators held accountable in open court.


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