Big News: Judge Throws Out Charges in Two Guantánamo Prisoner Cases
Yesterday, in a surprisingly swift move in Guantánamo Bay, a military judge dismissed war crimes charges against two detainees, citing that there was a flaw in the military's power to use the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to file such charges. (Finally! Someone in Gitmo admits there is a flaw in the process!) The judge stated that the charges weren't valid because these two detainees could not legally be charged for crimes under the MCA; they had only been deemed "enemy combatants," not "unlawful enemy combatants," which is the only detainee status that applies under the MCA.
The two detainees involved were a Canadian, Omar Khadr, and a Yemeni man, Salin Ahmed Hamdan. Hamdan, as you might recall, has been involved in a series of legal struggles concerning his right to a writ of habeas corpus, as seen most infamously in the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. (For more background on the case, have a look at: [Understanding] Habeas Corpus in the Research section of our blog. You can find more background on Khadr's official indictment and list of charges here.)
Although the judge's action seems to merely be based on a subtle, legal technicality (i.e., one word), I still find it reassuring that officials in Guantanamo appear to at least be moving in the right direction. Military judges (and lawyers) are starting to voice discontent with the "legality" of the tribunal court system under the Military Commissions Act...who would have thought? This suggests that the MCA actually might not be the end-all, be-all law governing Guantanamo after all, if judges continue to find exceptions and express a desire to move away from the arbitrary system. My favorite quote from the whole debacle is from the chief military defense lawyer at Guantanamo, Colonel Sullivan, who states bluntly:
How much more evidence do we need that the military commission process doesn't work?