Cry Havoc and let slip the kangaroos of Military Tribunals
U.S. won't back down on war-crimes tribunal
The Bush administration won't dismantle the controversial war-crimes tribunals at Guantanamo Bay for alleged terrorists, including Canada's Omar Khadr, despite rulings by two military judges tossing out all charges, a senior U.S. official said yesterday.
"The government is looking at a number of different options," said John Bellinger, legal adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But scrapping the tribunals and putting the terrorist suspects on trial, either in federal court in the United States or in military courts martial, isn't among them.
Instead, the government has quickly assembled a court to hear an appeal of the dismissal of charges against Mr. Khadr, accused of killing for al-Qaeda, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, alleged to have been a driver for Osama bin Laden.
"Judges have been appointed and the court is prepared to receive appeals," said Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. But Cdr. Gordon said he couldn't provide the names of those named to the Court of Military Commission Review. It was created by Congress last year, but had no judges or staff until the government scrambled in the wake of Monday's surprise rulings by the military judges.
It also remained unclear yesterday, after the 72-hour deadline had passed, whether prosecutors had actually filed the required notice of appeal within the time limit.
But even with the legal uncertainties, it seemed evident that the Bush administration wasn't going to accede to calls from rights groups and defence lawyers.
Meanwhile, back in Washington DC...
Senate moves closer to restore detainee rights
Guantanamo prisoners and other foreigners got a step closer to regaining the right to challenge their detention in the US courts in a bill approved in a US Senate committee yesterday.
The Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 to send the proposal to the full Senate for debate, with Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania the lone Republican joining the Democratic majority.
Congress last year revoked the rights of foreign terrorism suspects labeled “enemy combatants” to challenge their detention by the US. The Bush administration said it was necessary to prevent them from attacking Americans if freed.
The move affected about 380 suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban captives held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. It could also affect 12mn legal residents of the US who are not US citizens, said the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
“I hope the Senate will reconsider the historic error in judgment,” Leahy said.
The proposal would restore the right of habeas corpus, Latin for “have the body,” which has been the foundation of Anglo-American justice. It prevents the government from locking people up without review by a court.