The Guantanamo Trials

The military commissions at Guantanamo Bay were created by the Bush administration in 2001 to try foreign terrorism suspects in proceedings that lack the due process protections of US federal courts.

When President Barack Obama took office, charges were pending against 13 defendants and had been sworn in an additional nine cases. It was widely expected that President Obama, who had been critical of the military commissions during his run for the presidency, would discontinue the commissions and transfer detainees to US federal court for prosecution.

In May 2009, however, the president announced that he planned to continue to use military commissions — with improved rules — to try detainees for law of war violations. He said that both the commissions and the federal courts would be available as options for prosecuting detainees, and that, where feasible, detainees would be prosecuted in federal court.

Later in the year, Congress passed legislation that improved the military commissions by, among other changes, prohibiting the introduction of some evidence obtained through the use of torture or cruel and unusual punishment, and tightening the use of hearsay evidence. But even with these improvements, some evidence derived from torture and other forms of coercion remain admissible and, the military commissions are still in other respects substandard proceedings lacking independence, fairness, and time-tested procedures of US federal courts.

In November 2009, in an important step forward for justice, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he planned to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants, all charged with planning and organizing the September 11 attacks, to face prosecution in federal court in New York. Holder also announced that five other detainees would be tried by military commission. However, following a backlash from the public and the political establishment in New York, the administration stepped back from that position in April 2011 and announced that it would instead try the alleged 9/11 perpetrators by military commission.

Human Rights Watch is convinced that the continued use of the military commissions is a grave mistake. Given their substandard procedures and tainted history, Human Rights Watch does not believe that judgments handed down by military commissions will be perceived as legitimate, either domestically or internationally.

As of August 2014, only Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, and the five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks actually face formal charges. Human Rights Watch has sent observers to all of the military commission hearings, often writing about the proceedings in various publications. For information about the proceedings against each detainee, including those previously charged, click the individual detainee’s name below.

Name Nationality Case Summary Status
Mohammed Kamin Afghan

Mohammed Kamin, an Afghan, is charged with providing material support for terrorism, based on, among other claims, the allegation that he received arms training at al-Qaeda camps. On December 8, 2009, the charges were dismissed without prejudice.
 
Click here to return to the list of detainees.

Charges withdrawn
Obaidullah Afghan

Obaidullah, an Afghan, is accused of conspiracy (including conspiracy to commit murder), and providing material support to terrorism. The US alleges that he stored and concealed anti-tank mines and other explosive devices and that he had a notebook with illustrations showing how to wires and detonate them for the purpose of "carrying out a terrorist act."
 

Charges withdrawn
Abdul Ghani Afghan

The government announced charges against Abdul Ghani, an Afghan in his late 30s, on July 28, 2008, accusing him of conspiracy, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, and providing material support for terrorism.
 

Charges withdrawn
Sufyian Barhoumi Algerian

Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian, was accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support for terrorism for providing instruction on building explosives.
 
He was arrested in March 2002 along with several other terrorist suspects when US and Pakistani forces raided a house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, and has been detained at Guantanamo ever since.

Charges withdrawn
Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi Saudi

Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi is a Saudi with an electrical engineering degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
 

Charges withdrawn
Tarek Mahmoud El Sawah

Tarek Mahmoud El Sawah of Bosnian and Egyptian descent had been charged with conspiracy and material support for terrorism for allegedly serving as an Al Qaeda explosives expert. His charges were dismissed in 2012.
 
Click here to return to the list of detainees.

Charges withdrawn
Jabran bin al Qahtani Saudi

Jabran bin al Qahtani is a Saudi citizen who has been held at Guantanamo since 2002. He has a graduate degree in engineering from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. He was initially charged with conspiracy before the military commissions on December 16, 2005, but those charges were later dismissed.

Charges withdrawn
Mohammed al-Qahtani Saudi

Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who is accused of being the would-be twentieth hijacker, was taken into US custody in December 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo a few months later.
 

Charges withdrawn
Faiz Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari

Faiz Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari of Kuwait had been charged with providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy for allegedly providing training at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and giving advice and assistance to Osama bin Laden. His charges were dismissed in 2012.
 

Charges withdrawn
Abdul Zahir Afghan Abdul Zahir, an Afghan, was originally charged with conspiracy, aiding the enemy and attacking civilians in connection with a grenade attack that wounded Canadian reporter Kathleen Kenna, but the charges were dismissed in 2006. He has been recommended for continued detention. He has been held at Guantanamo since 2003.

 

Charges withdrawn
David Hicks Australian

David Hicks, an Australian, was the first person to have been convicted by the US military commissions. He pleaded guilty in April 2007 to one count of providing material support for terrorism and was sentenced to seven years. All but nine months of this sentence were suspended, and Hicks served seven months in his native Australia and was released on December 29, 2007.

Convicted
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi Sudanese

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, a Sudanese national, confessed to providing, and conspiring to provide, material support for terrorism on July 7, 2010. Al-Qosi admitted that from 1996 to 2001 he served as a driver and cook for Osama bin Laden.

Convicted
Omar Ahmed Khadr Canadian

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was just 15 when he was captured and seriously injured in a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. He pleaded guilty on October, 25, 2010, to murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism, and spying, and was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment.
 

Convicted
Noor Uthman Mohamed Sudanese

Noor Uthman Mohammed, a Sudanese national, was arrested in March 2002 when US and Pakistani forces raided an alleged al Qaeda safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Convicted
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani Tanzanian

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian, was initially indicted by federal prosecutors in New York in December 1998 for the August 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania but was a fugitive at the time. His four co-defendants were tried in US federal court in 2001 and sentenced to life without parole.

Convicted
Majid Shoukat Khan Pakistani

Majid Shoukat Khan is a Pakistani citizen who lived in the United States for several years. Born in 1980, he moved with his family to the Baltimore, Maryland area in 1996. His parents were granted asylum, and Khan lawfully stayed in the US, graduated from high school, and as a teen worked at his father’s gas station.

Convicted
Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi Saudi Convicted
Salim Ahmed Hamdan Yemeni

In August 2008, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden, became the first Guantanamo detainee to go to trial before the military commissions.

Conviction Vacated
Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul Yemeni

Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul was tried by the military commissions and sentenced to life in prison on November 3, 2008, after a military jury found him guilty of 35 counts of conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder, and providing material support for terrorism. In January of 2013, however, the federal appeals court in Washington D.C.

Conviction Vacated
Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi Saudi

Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi, originally from Saudi Arabia, has been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, attacking civilians and civilian objects, murder in violation of the laws of war, destruction of property in violation of the laws of war, hijacking, terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism.

Military commission - referred
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri Saudi

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, murder and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, and terrorism.

Military commission - referred
Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin ‘Attash (AKA Khalid al-Mihdhar) Yemeni

Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin ‘Attash, a Yemeni, has been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the laws of war, destruction of property in violation of the laws of war, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.

Military commission - referred
Ramzi bin al-Shibh Yemeni

Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni, has been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the laws of war, destruction of property in violation of the laws of war, hijacking, terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism.

Military commission - referred
Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (AKA, Ammar al-Baluchi) Pakistani

Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a Pakistani, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder and destruction of property in violation of the laws of war, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism, based on claims that he ordered flight training videos and transferred large sums of money to the 9/11 hijackers in the US

Military commission - referred
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Pakistani

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani who grew up in Kuwait, has been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder and destruction of property in violation of the laws of war, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism, for his alleged role in planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Military commission - referred
Abd al Hadi al Iraqi Iraqi Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a 51- or 52-year-old Iraqi citizen. He was taken into custody in late 2006, spent some time the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency and was ultimately transferred to Guantanamo in April of 2007. He has been described as one of 16 high-valued detainees by US government officials. Military commission - referred
Mohammed Hashim Afghan

Mohammed Hashim, an Afghan, was charged with spying, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. Specifically, the United States alleged that Hashim attended a terrorist training camp to receive instruction in weapons, explosives, suicide bombings, assassination and poisoning water supplies.

Released
Mohammed Jawad Afghan

Mohammed Jawad, a 23-year-old Afghan, was taken into US custody when he was somewhere between the ages of 12 to 17 (he does not know his birthday and his relatives have given conflicting accounts). He was charged with attempted murder in violation of the laws of war and intentionally causing serious bodily injury.

Released
Binyam Ahmed Mohamed Ethiopian

Binyam Ahmed Mohamed, an Ethiopian, trained as an electrical engineer in the United Kingdom, where he had been granted refugee status.
 

Released
Fouad Mahmoud Hasan al Rabia Kuwaiti

Al Rabia, 50, was charged in October 2008 with conspiracy to commit terrorism and attack civilians and providing material support for terrorism. The government alleged that he traveled to Afghanistan to meet with Osama Bin Laden and that he raised money for al Qaeda, commanded a supply depot at Tora Bora, and delivered supplies to al Qaeda fighters.

Released