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WORLD FOCUS: Guantanamo on her mind

August 10, 2010

It is with increased frequency that the news reaches us here, reporting that a member of the U. S. Armed Forces, among them from units of 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, was killed or wounded in Afghanistan. Deployed there, they fight the Taliban, to prevent it to regain power in that country and provide once again sanctuary to Al Qaeda, the Islamist terrorist organization.

    At the same time, there is a strenuous effort made to fulfill President Obama’s pledge to close the prison camp at Guantanamo, where most of the high-profile terrorists are held. Do so a number of detainees were released, having given assurances of not engaging anymore in terrorist activities.

Alas, in a recent Internet video clip, the Yemeni Al Qaeda featured two former detainees released from Guaatanamo, who have rejoined the terrorist group and were made commanders in the Yemeni Al Qaeda.

    Thus, the whole approach to solving the Guantanamo problem in under review and the Pentagon is reaching out to legal scholars to solicit their advice.      

    No one has ever considered Linda Malone a shrinking violet when it comes to her law projects. She is a legal scholar who is known to take on challenging assignments.

    She is the Marshall-Wythe Foundation professor of law and director of the Human Security Law Program at William & Mary Law School. The author or co-author of 12 scholarly books, she has been the recipient of Fulbright awards, twice.

    For her work on women’s and children’s rights in Eastern Europe, she received the Fulbright Regional Research Award. She was also awarded the Distinguished Fulbright Chair in International Environmental Law. Only 40 scholars worldwide receive these chairs in any given year.

    What distinguishes Malone is her courage in taking on tough assignments and inspiring her students to get involved. Two years ago, as a consultant to the Regimes Crimes Liaison Office of the U. S. Department of Justice, then advising the Iraqi tribunal trying Saddam Hussein, Malone and her students prepared legal memos for the use by the Iraqi prosecutors and judges.

    The project received international media coverage, highlighting the activities of W&M law students. “Our students’ involvement in this project was in keeping with the best tradition of the Jeffersonian ideal of the citizen-lawyer,” Malone said at that time.

    She and a select group of her students are now assisting the chief Pentagon prosecutor in the cases proceeding before the Guantanamo Bay military commissions.

    “The students and I have benefited tremendously from the prior experience in providing legal research and memos to the judges of the Iraqi Criminal Tribunal which tried Saddam Hussein and others,” Malone said in a recent interview. “My experience in supervising the project was very valuable in my discussion with the Prosecutor’s Office at the Pentagon.”

    As a result of those discussions, her students are now participating in a seminar that is focusing on the work of assisting the Office of the Chief Prosecutor for the military commission in the legal prosecution of high profile detainees, including among others, those charged with blowing a hole in the USS Cole, in Yemen.

    Her students will be required to prepare memos of 25-30 pages dealing with  confidential issues related to the prosecution of some of the Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    “My students are serving the William & Mary tradition by bringing their skills to the benefit of their community, their country and the international legal system.”

    She considers this a unique opportunity for the students to experience first-hand  cases of utmost sensitivity involving some of the most challenging legal issues of our time.

    By her lights, the extraordinary job the earlier W&M students did in providing legal assistance to the judges of the Iraqi Criminal Tribunal played an important role in the Pentagon’s decision to select W&M as the only law school for this cooperative project.

    “This project will be of special interest to many communities,” she said. “Many families have members who have served and sacrificed for our country and are hoping to see our legal system provide justice for victims of the crimes perpetrated, while also hoping to see that we demonstrate to the rest of the world the highest standards of our legal system.”

    The Iraqi Tribunal project got Malone and three students interviewed on Fox News. Unfortunately, the technician prepared only three seats in front of the camera. That didn’t faze her.

     “The students were such outstanding spokespersons for the project and W&M Law School, that I couldn’t have been more proud of being rejected,” she said.

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.




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