The Department of Defense announced today that charges were referred to a military commission on three enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Appointing Authority John D. Altenburg, Jr. approved and referred charges on Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan and referred charges on David Hicks of Australia. 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.
The three cases were referred to a panel consisting of a presiding officer and four other members. One alternate panel member was also designated. This panel will hear all three cases. Retired Army Col. Peter E. Brownback III was selected as the presiding officer and will be recalled to active duty to serve in this role. Brownback has 22 years of experience as a judge advocate and nearly 10 years of experience as a military judge. The remaining panel members consist of two U.S. Marine Corps Colonels, an Air Force Colonel and an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. The presiding officer will be contacting attorneys in the cases in the near future to set an initial trial schedule.
All three accused are 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 charges are available at: