The Department of Defense announced today that charges were referred to a military commission in the case of Omar Ahmed Khadr by the Appointing Authority John D. Altenburg Jr. Altenburg previously approved charges on Khadr on Nov. 4, 2005. Referral is the step in the military commission process where the appointing authority designates the presiding officer and panel members who will hear a particular case. A trial date has not yet been set.
Khadrs case was referred as a noncapital case to a panel consisting of six members and two alternate members. Marine Col. Robert S. Chester was selected as the presiding officer for this case. Chester has 23 years of experience as a judge advocate and seven years of experience as a military judge. The remaining panel members consist of three Air Force colonels, two Army colonels, a Navy captain, a Navy lieutenant commander, and a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. The presiding officer will be contacting attorneys in the case in the near future to set an initial trial schedule.
Khadr is presumed innocent of any criminal charges unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a military commission. Military commission procedures provide for a full and fair trial to include: the presumption of innocence; a requirement for proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; representation by a military defense counsel free of charge with the option to retain a civilian defense counsel at no expense to the U.S. government; an opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses; no adverse inference if an accused chooses not to testify; and an appeal to an independent and impartial review panel. Military commissions have historically been used to try violations of the law of armed conflict and related offenses.
Copies of the referral memorandums are available at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2005/d20051201khadr1.pdf and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2005/d20051201khadr2.pdf .