Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
WASHINGTON, 20 July 2005 — The Pentagon announced Monday it will soon resume the military trials of two terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and file charges against eight others.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the decision by a three-judge federal appeals court panel on Friday is an endorsement of the Bush administration’s method of prosecuting suspected terrorists. Critics say the approach is flawed by inadequate legal protections.
Rumsfeld is the architect of a major 2002 administration decision that terror suspects captured in Afghanistan would be classified as enemy combatants and not entitled to all the legal procedures for prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.
As a result, detainees in Guantanamo are being held indefinitely without charges being filed against them and are not permitted access to lawyers or to cross-examine witnesses against them in many cases.
During Monday’s press conference with Australian President John Howard, Rumsfeld said the Pentagon would push forward the trial of David Hicks, the only remaining Australian among the 520 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Hicks is accused of having fought alongside the Taleban against US forces in Afghanistan.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan will also be brought to trial. From Yemen, Hamdan was allegedly a driver for Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind who orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Bin Laden remains at large almost four years after the attacks.
Trial proceedings were begun last summer against Hicks, Hamdan and two other suspects, but they were halted after a district court ruled in November that a US military court could not try Hamdan unless a “competent tribunal” determined first that he was not a prisoner of war under the 1949 Geneva Convention.
Hamdan’s lawyers plan to appeal Friday’s ruling, and said Bush violated the separation of powers in the Constitution when he established military commissions. The appeals court disagreed, saying Bush relied on Congress’s joint resolution authorizing the use of force after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as two congressionally enacted laws.
The other two suspects whose trials were started and then suspended are Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Al-Qosi, a Sudanese citizen accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism, and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman Al-Bahlul, a Yemeni accused of conspiring to commit war crimes.
Guantanamo Bay has been at the center of controversy recently, following confirmation that guards abused prisoners at the detention facility. A Pentagon investigation concluded that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who ran the prison before moving to Iraq to oversee Iraqi prisons, should be reprimanded over the abuses. But the commander of the US Southern Command declined to accept the recommendation saying Gen. Miller broke no law.