Law students discuss Guantanamo

By Joann Chen

Over 100 U of C Law School students gathered Thursday for the National Guantanamo Teach-In organized by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

The discussion featured Gary Isaac and Susan Gzesh, who joined other lawyers, journalists, clergy, military officers, physicians, and former detainees in discussing the complex issues surrounding the naval base made infamous by its detainees’ accusations of torture.

Isaac, a lawyer for the international law firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, detailed his involvement in the fight to assure the basic legal rights of Guantanamo detainees and gave an account of the Congressional debate on the topic. Having worked since 2003 on behalf of those held at the base, he provided several examples of the U. S. government’s alleged atrocities and failures.

Isaac repeatedly condemned the congressional leadership for “doing the president’s bidding” on the issue of detainee rights and for ignoring basic legal rights such as the right to habeas corpus.

Isaac’s legal arguments were supplemented by Gzesh’s moral appeals to the audience of future lawyers to be “good citizens and good participants.” In a lighthearted reference to Spiderman, she warned the students that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Gzesh, the director of the Human Rights Program at the University, called for a more well rounded perspective when approaching the legal issues of human rights and endorsed film, literature, and drama among other forms of expression as avenues through which the social effects of torture could be better understood.

The University joined over 200 schools across the nation in spotlighting the issue. The Teach-In comes in response to the Bush administration’s recent proposal to set up military commissions to try the “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo Bay, a move seen by many as an attempt to curtail the detainees’ human rights.