The Department of Defense announced today that charges were referred to a military commission on one enemy combatant detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Appointing Authority John D. Altenburg, Jr., approved and referred charges on Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen. 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 case was referred to a panel consisting of a presiding officer and four other members. One alternate panel member was also designated. This panel will hear this case as well as three other cases referred on June 29, 2004. Retired Army Col. Peter E. Brownback, III will again serve as the presiding officer; he 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 Cols., an Air Force Col. and an Air Force Lt. Col. The presiding officer will be contacting attorneys in this case in the near future to set an initial trial schedule. This case, like the previous ones will be tried at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba.
The accused 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.
Among the allegations Hamdan is charged with include conspiracy to commit the following: attacking civilians, murder by an unprivileged belligerent and terrorism. Among the actions taken by the defendant supporting the charge are: providing physical security for Usama bin Laden and other high ranking al Qaida members. Copies of the complete charges are available at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2004/d20040714hcc.pdf and the referral document can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2004/d20040714HAC.pdf .