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November 13, 2006

Gitmo's Girl - Page 5

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This July, Huskey decided to join the International Human Rights Law Clinic full-time, to devote herself to cases like Rasul. Paradoxically, this means saying good-bye to her Kuwaiti clients, who will continue to be represented by Shearman & Sterling. Today, Huskey has a more controversial client, Omar Khadr, a Canadian born to Middle Eastern parents, who, unlike the Kuwaitis, is charged with a war crime: American authorities say he lobbed a grenade at a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and killed him. Huskey has no idea when his trial will take place — considering that President Bush just transferred 14 high-level terrorist suspects, including top lieutenants to Osama bin Laden, to Guantánamo whose cases presumably take precedence over Khadr's.

"I realize there's a difference between Omar and my previous clients," she says. But she still finds a way to relate to him, to humanize him. "He was picked up when he was 15. So no matter what the allegations are against him, he should have been given special status as a child. And he wasn't."

At the end of September, the Senate and House passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, outlining future protocols for the treatment of detainees. It can barely be considered progress. Prisoners at Guantánamo now have the right to see some, but not all, classified evidence being used against them in military tribunals. And they no longer have the right to challenge their detainee status in a U.S. court of law.

Huskey hopes there'll be yet another Supreme Court challenge to the act. Like most human-rights lawyers, she believes that preserving the integrity of the legal system is the cardinal value, and also the ultimate one. She doesn't live in a universe of moral absolutes.

"Some people may be horrible, through and through," she concedes. But then she adds, with her idiosyncratic humanism, "On the other hand, that's the essence of what being a human-rights lawyer is: You believe that by being human — just by being human — you're entitled to certain rights. They may be scant, but you're entitled to them."

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