Scrap the military commissions!
Close Guantnamo
Legal challenges to the military commissions at Guantánamo

Dear friends and supporters,

It's nearly 13 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that prompted the Bush administration to embark on a "war on terror" in which domestic and international laws and treaties were disregarded -- with disastrous results.

One of the most alarming and unacceptable developments in the "war on terror" was the establishment of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where, over the last 12 years and eight months, 779 men have been held, almost all without charge or trial, even though imprisonment without charge or trial is unacceptable in any country that claims to call itself civilized.

Another alarming development in the "war on terror" was the establishment of military commissions at Guantánamo, a trial system that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in 2006, but was then ill-advisedly revived by Congress. The commissions have struggled to establish any kind of legitimacy whatsoever, and recent developments have done nothing to reassure anyone interested in justice that the commissions are anything other than an abject failure.

In July, we provided updates (here and here) about the seemingly interminable pre-trial hearings in the handful of cases that are ongoing, and this week we have been looking at the legal challenges to existing convictions that threaten to destroy what little legitimacy the commissions still have.

in "Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul, David Hicks and the Legal Collapse of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo," Andy Worthington examines the latest legal challenges, part of a process that began almost two years ago, when appeals court judges threw out one of the commissions' only convictions, against a Yemeni named Salim Hamdan, on the basis -- profoundly embarrassing for the U.S. government -- that the war crimes for which Hamdan had been convicted had, essentially, been invented by Congress.

The latest challenges involve Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, whose conviction was thrown out shortly after Hamdan's, in January 2013, but who had to wait until last month for the appeals court to address an appeal by the government -- and David Hicks, the first man convicted, in 2007, who is seeking to have his conviction thrown out.

I leave you to read the article for the full details of these developments, but it is clear that the commissions' credibility cannot be salvaged. The sensible course of action would be for the government to scrap the commissions, move the few existing cases to federal court, and free everyone else still held at Guantánamo -- but we won't be holding our breaths waiting for that particular outcome, although we will, of course, continue to campaign for the men still held to be freed or put on trial in federal court.

No other course of action is acceptable.

With thanks, as ever, for your support,
The "Close Guantánamo" team

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