Military Trials for Two Guantanamo Detainees to Resume Soon
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 18, 2005 Military commissions proceedings "will resume as soon as possible" against two enemy-combatant detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
Rumsfeld's comments came after a federal appeals court ruled July 15 that such proceedings can legally go forward. The secretary appeared at the Pentagon with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
Rumsfeld said the ruling "vindicates the president's determination to treat suspected terrorists ... humanely but not to grant them the protections of the Geneva Conventions as a matter of right."
The ruling came in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan vs. Donald Rumsfeld. Hamdan, a Yemeni national is accused of being a personal driver and bodyguard for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. In November, a federal district court judge halted commissions' proceedings in Hamdan's case. A three-judge panel of the appeals court overturned that ruling.
The other detainee likely to soon stand trial by military commission is David Hicks, the so-called "Australian Taliban." Hicks was captured while fighting in Afghanistan. He and Hamdan face similar war-crimes charges.
Howard said today that his government is "satisfied that the military commission process ... will provide a proper measure of justice."
"The allegations against (Hicks) are particularly serious, and we look forward to them being dealt with before the tribunal," Howard said.
Rumsfeld said he is "reluctant" to assign a timeframe to the resumption of commissions proceedings, noting, "We'll just have to see how the (legal process) plays out.
"What I will say is that we are determined to press ahead," he added. "We think it's important from the standpoint of the individuals involved, and it's important also from the standpoint of the country that this process go forward."
Rumsfeld also announced today that the Office of Military Commissions is preparing charges against eight other detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and is preparing to recommend the president consider making several others eligible for such proceedings.
Military commissions proceedings had begun but were halted for two other Guantanamo detainees: Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul, from Yemen, and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, from Sudan. In a statement, defense officials today announced that proceedings will continue for these individuals and that new commission members will be appointed for these cases this week.
Other changes in the Office of Military Commissions will include the appointment of new chief defense counsel and chief prosecutor. "The incumbent in each position is retiring from military service," the statement said.
"Military commissions follow a careful and deliberative process to ensure a full and fair trial for the accused, to protect classified and sensitive information, (and) to protect the safety of all personnel participating in the process," Rumsfeld said.