Media Criticism

The Saudi Gazette Wants Guantanamo Closed

By Benjamin Wittes
Friday, June 29, 2012, 8:37 AM

This is rich.

An English-language Saudi newspaper, the Saudi Gazette, has an editorial entitled "Close Guantanamo" bashing President Obama for failing to keep his campaign pledge to close the detention facility. Leave aside for a moment the kingdom's own role in that failure--that Saudi Arabia welched on a tentative understanding that it would take some of the Yemeni detainees housed there. The editorial complains of the recent cert denials in Guantanamo cases and the D.C. Circuit's supposed gutting of Boumediene: "the justices recently rejected appeals which argued that the federal appeals court in Washington has largely ignored the high court’s command. But by refusing to hear these cases, the Supreme Court abandons the promise of its own ruling guaranteeing detainees a constitutional right to a review of the legality of their detention." And its last line asserts that "there is no detainee at Guantanamo who cannot be tried and should not be tried in the regular U.S. federal courts system."

Gosh, I'm really glad that the Saudi press has such confidence in the regular U.S. court system's ability to handle security threats and is troubled by the conduct of our appellate judges. And I'm sure that the regular Saudi court system would have no trouble at all handling those whom its government felt it could not responsibly release but who were not amendable to criminal prosecution under the laws that existed at the time of their conduct. That's because Saudia Arabia doesn't have a penal code at all, though its regular court system nonetheless convicts people of such inchoate, undefined crimes as magic and witchcraft--and then executes them. From the State Department's human rights report on Saudi Arabia last year:

[I]n one of the reported 79 executions during the year, Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassir, a 60-year-old woman, was beheaded on December 12 in the northern province of Al-Jouf reportedly after her conviction of criminal charges of practicing “witchcraft and sorcery.” Absent a penal code, there is no precise legal definition of witchcraft, magic, or sorcery. According to press reports, she was arrested in 2009 and following an investigation was tried by a first-instance court, which found her guilty of practicing magic and sorcery and sentenced her to death. The case was reviewed by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Judicial Council, which both upheld the conviction, and the sentence was carried out by royal order.

If our regular court system could handle Yemeni nationals whom Saudi Arabia would not help resettle like this, then yeah, law of war detention would not be necessary here either and Obama could quickly shutter Guantanamo.