Guantanamo: New ruling in Khadr case condemned

Military commissions should be dropped, including for detainee held since age of 15

Amnesty International has called for trials by “military commission” at the US-run detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be dropped as it condemned a ruling yesterday by a military tribunal that such proceedings should go ahead.

The Pentagon has indicated that it will resume military commission proceedings following yesterday’s ruling by the Court of Military Commission Review, a tribunal established by the US Secretary of Defense in June 2007.

Plans for military commissions stalled in early June after two military judges dismissed charges against Canadian national Omar Ahmed Khadr and Yemeni national Salim Ahmed Hamdan on the grounds that the commissions lacked jurisdiction over them.

These detainees are among the 300-plus foreign nationals still held at Guantánamo where detainees have been classified “enemy combatants”. In the appeal in Omar Khadr’s case, the review tribunal ruled that the military judge had erred by not allowing the government the opportunity to present evidence in support of its contention that Omar Khadr was an “unlawful enemy combatant”.

It ruled that the military judge was also wrong to have found that he lacked the authority to decide whether the defendant was an “unlawful enemy combatant” for the purpose of establishing the military commission’s jurisdiction. It is not clear if the decision can or will be appealed to the federal legal system in the US.

Amnesty International considers that the absence of due process for Omar Khadr and the other Guantánamo detainees has left them arbitrarily detained in violation of international human rights law.

Amnesty International UK Guantánamo campaigner Sara Mac Neice said:

“If the USA genuinely intends to bring any of the Guantánamo detainees to trial, it must do so in a way which demonstrates a commitment to restoring the rule of law. It should promptly charge any such detainee in the federal courts with recognisable criminal offences.

“Detainees should either be charged and brought to fair trial in independent, impartial and competent tribunals, or released.”

Amnesty International is also calling on the Canadian and Yemeni governments to join Amnesty International and others in attempting to persuade the USA to bring its treatment of these detainees into full compliance with international law. The organisation is urging these two governments to protect their citizens by seeking their repatriation and, if there is sufficient and admissible evidence, arranging for a proper fair trials in their home country.

In Omar Khadr’s case, the USA’s failure to apply international law has meant that an individual who was 15 years old when he was taken into custody in Afghanistan in mid-2002 has been held for a quarter of his life in untried military custody, with no account taken of his age and his captors ignoring the requirement under international standards to facilitate his rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

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